Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bygone Business: Pierson's Floor Covering

The storefront at 410 S. Main Street received a new tenant in the spring of 1964, after having served more than three decades as the home of a shoe store (first Hale's, then Leinenger's). The new store was Pierson's Floor Covering, and it held a grand opening on April 3 and 4, 1964. Operated by Arthur C. Pierson, who had been in the floor covering business in Detroit, the shop sold duPont paint, Armstrong linoleum and carpeting.  To introduce his store to Rochester residents, Pierson offered a child's fishing pole and reel to the first one hundred customers to visit the shop on opening weekend. Pierson's closed around 1971, and the Rochester Eccentric newspaper offices replaced it at 410 S. Main in 1972.

The ad shown here ran in the Rochester Clarion in April 1964 to announce Pierson's grand opening. Do any of you have one of those kiddie rod and reel outfits stuffed in a closet somewhere?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Subidvision Stories: Rochester Heights

The Rochester Heights subdivision was platted on former farmland northeast of the village of Rochester in 1956.  Since 1913, the 30-acre parcel that was subdivided had been part of the William Korff farm, and for most of the 19th century it was part of the large holdings of the Lysander Woodward family. Rochester Heights was part of a post-war building boom in the area that sought to meet overwhelming demand for housing as World War II vets who had finished their college degrees on the GI Bill looked to move into the northern suburbs. The Rochester Clarion announced the new subdivision in August 1956, reporting that the ranch homes in the development would be built by the Jack Hyman Building Company of Detroit, while sales would be handled by White Brothers of Waterford.

The opening of the home sales was done in a spectacular way. When the model homes were ready for public inspection, free helicopter rides were offered to show off the new development. The Clarion reported than more than 1,500 people turned out for the grand opening and about 150 took the aerial view:
About 150 persons took helicopter rides and there were rides on giant earth movers for the youngsters and refreshments for all.
Clarence Burr, village president, cut the ribbon at the door of one of the models to formally open the affair Saturday and for two days a steady stream of people moved though the models. Comment was high favorable and several homes were sold on the spot by White Brothers, of Waterford, who are handling sales.

Streets in the Rochester Heights subdivision are all named for trees. In 1957, an addition to the subdivision was made on the north end, connecting it to the existing North Hill Gardens subdivision via Red Oak Lane.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bygone Business: Buzzell Shop

It's hard to visualize today, but the former D & C building on the corner of Fourth and Main (occupied today by the Rojo Mexican restaurant) used to house more than one business in the space.  Tucked in to the back end of the building near the alley was The Buzzell Shop, a ladies' dress store located with the address of 113 W. Fourth Street. The business opened in August 1940 and operated for twenty years, closing in January 1960. It was operated by Neil D. Buzzell and his wife, Pearl, who lived in Bruce Township, near Romeo.

Here's a local newspaper ad from a 1951 issue of the Rochester Clarion, featuring a dress that was "big fashion news" for $14.95.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

At Home in Rochester: John B. Oliver House

Available evidence suggests that the brick Victorian house at 324 East Street was built about 1865 for a man named John B. Oliver. Oliver was born in France in 1794 as Jean Baptiste Olivier, and sailed with his family to America in 1828 aboard the ship La Leonarde. He settled in Rochester before the Civil War and owned a number of parcels of land on the east side of Main Street; in fact, on some early maps of the village, that which we know as East Street is marked as Oliver Street.

John Oliver was a cabinetmaker by trade, but the most interesting fact about his life comes from the 1877 History of Oakland County, Michigan, which tells us that he was one of only two veterans of the Napoleonic Wars living in the county at that time.

Oliver's house and lot on East Street was sold to Nehemiah and Mary Ralston, emigrants from Northampton County, Pennsylvania, in 1866. The Ralstons remained in Rochester only a few years and sold the house to local merchant Abram Horn in 1872. Horn, in turn, sold the house to James and Catherine Riggs, and following the Riggs family, the house was owned by Orestes Millerd.  For most of the early part of the twentieth century, however, 324 East was owned by the Hadden family, who purchased it in 1904. In 1944 the house was converted to a nursery school, thus ending its service as a private residence.

Oscar Sorenson bought the house in 1969, painted it blue, and operated it as a private museum and antique gallery called "Wedgewood Hall." Sorenson also built an addition on the back of the house to replace an old summer kitchen.  In the years since, the house has been the location of several small businesses, and is now the headquarters of Kosch Catering.

The John B. Oliver House is approximately 148 years old this year. More details about the history of the property are available on the Oakland Regional Historic Sites web site, here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This Month in Rochester History

Rochester Falconettes Parents' Club float, 1981 parade (courtesy of Clarence and Dorene Whitbey)
Fifty years ago this month, the citizens of Rochester were doing what they had been doing during the first week of December for over a decade - looking forward to the annual Christmas Parade. Next Sunday afternoon, the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce will present the 62nd annual Christmas Parade and a new generation of Rochester's families will be enjoying the tradition.  So now is the perfect time to look back at some Christmas parades past. Readers, I've pulled out a few vintage views to spark your memories. If you have Rochester parade photos in your own family collection that you'd like to share, e-mail them to and I'll add them to the post for everyone to enjoy.  Add your memories of the parade to the comments section as well!
Bagpipers in Christmas Parade, ca. 1954 (Courtesy of Erv and Dorothy Bauer)

West Junior High band in the parade, ca.1967 (courtesy of Clarence and Dorene Whitbey)

Parade float, ca.1967 (courtesy of Clarence and Dorene Whitbey)