Saturday, February 23, 2013

Old News That's New Again: Community Gardens

Last summer, the City of Rochester established a community garden, and the City of Rochester Hills is planning to establish one this year.  In both cases, the community garden was hailed as something new, but if we turn back 80 years in the pages of Rochester history to the Rochester Clarion issue of June 9, 1933, we find this story on the front page of the newspaper:
Forty-Seven Acres Sown For Community Project in Avon Township

   Avon Township's Community welfare gardens are underway. Forty-seven acres have been planted to root crops including potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, cabbage, sweet corn, squash, pumpkins and tomatoes. Twenty-seven acres have been tilled and sown on the former J. C. Day farm, just west of the village limits on the Pontiac road and the remaining twenty acres are located on the Crooks road. The gardens are being worked by welfare men using time slips the same as when they worked on the road. It is expected that a sufficient amount of vegetables will be raised on these gardens this summer for next winter's welfare supply.
   In addition to these community gardens, each welfare family has an individual garden which they take care of and have for their own use this summer.
   The township furnished the seeds for this project, purchasing them at a very reasonable price.
   Township officials have secured the assistance of K. D. Bailey, county agricultural agent. Mr. Bailey has stated the gardens were planted in excellent sod and heavy productivity can be assured. He will visit the gardens each month to note their progress and if at any time his assistance is needed he will gladly give it.
Similar projects are being carried out in neighboring townships and cities for their welfare use.

Avon Township is known as Rochester Hills today.  The J. C. Day farm referenced in the story later became known as the Great Oaks Stock Farm, located along West University/Walton on what was formerly referred to as the Pontiac road.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bygone Business: South End Garage

1920 newspaper ad for South End Garage
South End Garage was a Rochester institution for over half a century. Opened around 1920 by W. C. Calkins, the business was originally located at 121 S. Main Street, near the foot of the South Hill bridge. In the 1950s, it was located at 101 S. Main, and in 1964, the garage moved to its final location at 198 Diversion Street, just to the east of the South Hill bridge.  All locations were at the south end of town, in keeping with the business name.

After Calkins, South End Garage was operated at various times by Lester F. Pickering, Henry Kraus, and David R. Hoffman. The business closed several years ago, after a long run, but the building still stands on Diversion Street. Readers, if you have more information about this business, or memories of it, please post them in the comments!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Subdivision Stories: John R Highlands

The John R Highlands subdivision in Rochester Hills is one that has changed greatly from its original plat. The subdivision was laid out in 1924 on the southwest quarter of section 36, previously the farm of August and Caroline Dobat. The Dobats, along with Detroit real estate developer John P. Hehl and the Alex E. Michelson Land and Home Company, platted the land as the John R Highlands subdivision with interior streets named Evans and Ransom.  Ransom Street was presumably named for John P. Hehl's wife, the former Susie Ransom; the origin of the name of Evans Street is unclear.  In any event, both names were changed in 1950 when the Township of Avon renamed many of its streets at the recommendation of the county road commission. At that time, Ransom Street became Michelson, and Evans became Enfield.

The other major change to this plat, as can be seen by comparing a modern map to this original drawing, is that most of the eastern half of the plat is occupied today by Thelma G. Spencer Park and its 38-acre  Frederick S. Carter Lake. The park was opened in 1981.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

At Home in Rochester: James S. Stackhouse Residence

In the summer of 1899, carpenter and contractor James S. Stackhouse built this home at 426 West Fifth Street (now West University Drive) as his family residence, after purchasing his lot on the Sprague Addition from Albert G. Griggs. The Rochester Era told its readers on July 28, 1899 that: "The frame of J. S. Stackhouse's new house is up, the roof is on and work is rapidly proceeding toward completion."

James S. Stackhouse was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in 1846, the son of James Stackhouse and Kattie Shiffer. He married Frances M. Frutchey, also a native of Northampton County, and the couple migrated from Pennsylvania to Michigan about 1880. James and Frances Stackhouse were the parents of ten children; their son, James, was the operator of a meat market at 413 S. Main Street in Rochester and was married to Rochester's postmistress, Jessie McDonald Stackhouse.

In 1920, James S. Stackhouse died in his home at 426 W. Fifth Street; his wife died in 1929. The Stackhouse heirs sold the family home in 1937 to Joseph I. Moore and his wife Margaret, who used it as their family residence.  The Stackhouse residence is currently the location of the offices of Communicare on Canvas, an artistic rehabilitation program.  The building celebrates its 114th birthday this summer.

Friday, February 1, 2013

This Month in Rochester History

The location of Crittenton Hospital was on the minds of Rochester area residents fifty years ago this month. The Suburban Unit Committee of Detroit's Crittenton General Hospital board of trustees, headed by Howard L. McGregor, Jr., had been working to identify a suitable location for the new hospital facility for some time. The first site selected by the committee was on Auburn Road near John R, but that location had to be rejected because of "serious sewage and drainage problems." Casting about for an alternative, the committee chose a portion of the McGregor stock farm on the south side of Walton Boulevard, east of Livernois, and the decision was announced in the Rochester Clarion on February 7, 1963.  Ground was broken for the  new hospital in 1965, and it opened in August 1967. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you're interested in the history of Crittenton Hospital, take a look at this slide show.