Saturday, September 28, 2013

Subdivision Stories: Parkdale Heights

A small subdivision lying south of Parkdale Road between Elizabeth and Lounsbury streets was laid out as an addition to the Village of Rochester in November 1917.  The proprietors of the subdivision were two Rochester couples: Richard D. and Mary Watson and Alfred E. and Elizabeth Williams. The former farm land along Parkdale Road was quickly developed between 1915 and 1925 and many of the houses built on Parkdale and the adjacent side streets were occupied by employees of the Parkedale Biological Farm just east of the village.

The land on which the Parkdale Heights subdivision was created was formerly owned by Robert J. Lounsbury, an attorney and real estate developer who served as mayor of the City of Pontiac. After earning his degree from Columbia Law School in 1875, Lounsbury had come to Michigan to represent the interests of East Coast capitalists who had investments in the Midwest. In addition to the Lounsbury street that bears his name in Rochester, there is also a Lounsbury Avenue in Pontiac.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yates Cider Mill Marks a Milestone

Yates Cider Mill owners Mike and Katie Titus receive a Michigan Milestone award from a representative of the Historical Society of Michigan
This afternoon at Yates Cider Mill, the Historical Society of Michigan recognized Rochester Hills' oldest continuously operating business with a Michigan Milestone Marker. The plaque honors the mill for 150 years of service.

William H. Yates emigrated to Michigan from New York and established his mill on the Clinton River in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War.  The original structure was a grist mill, but Yates decided to begin pressing apple cider thirteen years later,  in 1876.  In 1894, the Yates family built a new structure to house the thriving business, and the iconic building that we know today was used to press apple cider that fall.

William Yates' son and grandson followed him in the business, and in 1959, Yates' grandson, Harry, sold the mill to the Posey family, who still own and operate it today.  Several generations of area residents have fond memories of autumn trips to Yates Cider Mill, and this year the atmosphere is especially festive as the mill observes the sesquicentennial anniversary of its founding.  We think William H. Yates would be proud!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

At Home in Rochester: Milton Henry Haselswerdt House

This lovely home on North Main Street stands in testimony to Rochester's share in the prosperity of the decade known as the "Roaring Twenties." The house was built  in 1928 as the family home of Milton Henry Haselswerdt and his wife, Augustine Blanchard Haselswerdt.  The Rochester Era described the progress on the house in October 1928:
M. H. Haselswerdt, president of the First National bank, who is building a fine new 12-room home, is nearing completion. The house is of colonial design, with exterior walls of buff brick and tile roof. The colonial entrance and arched windows add much to the attractiveness.
Milton Haselswerdt was born in Washtenaw County in 1882. After completing high school, he attended business school in Ypsilanti before taking a position as an assistant cashier at a bank in St. Ignace. He moved to Rochester in 1908, where he helped to organize the First National Bank of Rochester, serving at first as cashier and eventually rising to the position of president of the bank.  He was vice-president of the bank at the time that it built a modern new facility on the southwest corner of Fourth & Main, the building that houses Chase Bank today.

The Haselswerdts moved into their new home only months before the stock market crash of 1929 changed the economic fortunes of the nation.  Milton H. Haselswerdt was best remembered for bringing the First National Bank of Rochester out of the 1933 bank crisis in reorganized form, as the Rochester National Bank. This bank was the only one in Rochester to survive the Great Depression with no harm to depositors. It later merged with National Bank of Detroit, and Haselswerdt stayed with NBD as a director of the Rochester branch, retiring in 1957. He died in 1976 and  was entombed at White Chapel Cemetery in Troy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Music in the Stones" is Coming Soon!

Rochester's history comes to life on Saturday, September 28 when the Rochester Avon Historical Society presents its second annual Mount Avon Cemetery Walk from 1-5 p.m. The event features re-enactors in period costume who portray characters from the community's past as tour groups are guided through the cemetery. This year's theme is “Music in the Stones,” and tour guests will encounter several historical characters who will include musical performances in their presentations. Audiences will also learn about the history of Mount Avon's recently-restored 1925 mausoleum and step inside the building to “meet” a couple who are entombed there.

Tours will depart by shuttle van from the municipal parking lot at Third and Walnut streets and will be escorted by tour guides. Tickets ($15 per person) are issued for specific tour departure times and they are going fast - some tour times have already sold out!  Tickets may be purchased in person at the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce office, 71 Walnut St., Suite 110, or online at (click on the online store link). Any tickets not sold in advance will be available for walk-up sales at the shuttle stop at Third & Walnut on the day of the event.

The Cemetery Walk is a fun and engaging way for families to learn about local history, with a bit of community theater thrown in!  The event is not scary and is enjoyable for both school-age children and adults, but the presentations are not designed to be of interest to pre-school children.

Proceeds from this event are used to fund the Rochester Avon Historical Society's local history education and historic preservation initiatives. The Cemetery Walk is generously supported by Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge, Pixley Funeral Home, and Potere-Modetz Funeral Home.  For a video glimpse of last year's event, click here.

If you are in the area on September 28, please join us!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Month in Rochester History

Honor Roll moving in 1963 (Rochester Hills Public Library)
Fifty years ago this month, Rochester leaders were contemplating what should be done with the community's World War II honor roll, which had fallen into disrepair and was standing in the way of a proposed urban renewal project.

In 1963, the honor roll was located on the east side of Main Street at Second; Second street had not been opened east of Main at that time. The village was preparing for an urban renewal project on the east side of Main, encompassing the area occupied by the former Chapman Mill Pond (which had been washed out in 1946) and adjacent property.  Part of this plan was to open Second Street east of Main.

The village fathers and the Blue Star Mothers, who had originally sponsored the creation of the memorial, contemplating moving the memorial to the municipal building grounds, as this article from the September 26, 1963 issue of the Rochester Clarion reported:
Township treasurer Helen V. Allen, representing the Blue Star Mothers, addressed a letter to the Council asking them to consider a spot for the memorial on the Civil Center grounds.
The memorial is now located on Main St. across the road from the eastern end of Second. Because the names are etched on glass, some of the panels are broken and the memorial in general is in poor condition. It is believed that stones thrown up by passing cars have broken the glass panels.
Mrs. Allen said this week that the Blue Star Mothers have brought a glass company person to Rochester to look at the memorial and it is estimated it will cost $600 to repair the memorial. It will cost an unestimated amount to move the memorial. She said that the Blue Star Mothers will ask other organizations and individuals to help them finance the project.
Honor Roll at re-dedication in 2002 (Rod and Susan Wilson)
The planned move to the municipal building grounds did not happen in 1963. Instead, the honor roll was removed from its site at Second Street and dismantled. The broken panels were stored away in a garage and not seen again for several decades, until the Rochester Avon Historical Society adopted the honor roll as a historic preservation project and restored it.  At a cost many thousands of dollars greater than the estimate of 1963, the memorial was returned to its former glory and given a place of honor on the grounds of the Rochester Municipal Building in 2002. It was re-dedicated on Memorial Day of that year with many local World War II veterans in attendance.

If you haven't visited Rochester's World War II Honor Roll, be sure to take time to stop by the Municipal Building to view this memorial to the more than 1,100 men and women from the community who served in uniform during World War II.  Among the names listed are 26 preceded by gold stars, denoting the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.