Saturday, April 1, 2017

This Month in Rochester History

Half a century ago, Avon Township held its annual meeting and considered its options for a new cemetery.  Rochester had just become a city two months earlier, in February 1967.  Cityhood for Rochester meant that Mount Avon Cemetery, which lay within the former village - now city - boundaries, passed from the administration of Avon Township to the new city government.

Avon Township had other cemetery property, most notably the Paint Creek Cemetery on Romeo Road.   There was still some burial space available there, but the cemetery was small and could not serve the township into the future.  Fortunately, in 1956, Sarah Van Hoosen Jones had donated approximately 16 acres of land on East Tienken Road to the township specifically for use as a cemetery.

The township approved $15,000 to grade the Tienken Road property and build roads within the new cemetery.  Clerk Thelma Spencer promised taxpayers that the cemetery's business model would be designed to be self-sustaining.  The new Van Hoosen Jones-Stoney Creek Cemetery was laid out with 11,200 two-space burial plots, a cremation section, and a chapel.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester welcomed a new automobile dealer to town.  L. Keith Crissman, the community's Chevrolet dealer at the time, made a deal to sell his business to Bill Fox.  Thus Crissman Chevrolet became Bill Fox Chevrolet, a local company that is still going strong in 2017 and has expanded across the state.

Meanwhile, Crissman became a partner in the Wilson Cadillac dealership in Birmingham, and that business was renamed Wilson-Crissman Cadillac.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This Month in Rochester History

February 1967 was an important milestone in the history of Rochester.  Just a few weeks from the 150th anniversary of the settlement of Rochester by the Graham family in 1817, and 98 years after the community had incorporated itself as a village under Michigan law, Rochester officially became a city.

The voters had approved a city charter in January 1967 on a vote of 689 to 166, a culmination of years of attempts to transition from village to city government, or to consolidate with Avon Township. At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, February 13, 1967, the village faded into the pages of history and the City of Rochester was born.  On the evening of February 13, the new city council met and selected Roy Rewold to serve as the town's first mayor.

The new council's first order of business was to address the separation of city and township property, as Avon Township had several assets that found themselves lying within the municipal boundaries of the new city.  The City of Rochester assumed operation of Mount Avon Cemetery, formerly administered by the township. Eventually, the city also assumed operation of Avon Park, renaming it Rochester Municipal Park.

In 2017, Rochester celebrates both the 200th anniversary of its founding by the Grahams and the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a city.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

This Month in Rochester History

With the start of another new year, we turn our attention to the events of a half century ago in Rochester, during the year 1967.  In January 1967,  members of American Legion Post #172, also known as the Homer Wing Post, were celebrating the purchase of a new home.  The post had previously been headquartered in the historic Sprague house on West University Drive, but had sold that property for redevelopment in 1965.  In 1966, the Sprague house was torn down to make way for the construction of the office building at 134 W. University, leaving the Homer Wing Post without a permanent home.

After the Michigan Bell Telephone Company vacated its building at the corner of Third and Walnut streets in the fall of 1966, that building was offered for sale. The American Legion post, under Commander John Boeberitz, completed purchase of the property in January 1967, and the former telephone company building has been the post's home ever since.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester's two funeral homes, Potere and Pixley, made a joint announcement.  The two firms notified the city of Rochester that they were going out of the ambulance business in order to devote all of their time and attention solely to funeral services.

For years, ambulance calls in Rochester had been answered alternately by the funeral homes. The police dispatcher used a card with "Pixley" printed on one side and "Potere" on the other, as the two companies took turns responding to calls.  Their ambulances were transportation only, and did not carry life support equipment or personnel with medical training.

Following the announcement by the funeral homes in December 1966, Rochester contracted with Fleet Ambulance and St. Onge Ambulance to provide services to Rochester residents.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

In November 1966, the citizens of Rochester celebrated an improvement to the Avon Township Park (known today as Rochester Municipal Park).  The Kiwanis Club of Rochester dedicated a brand new pavilion on the bank of Paint Creek at the east end of the park, overlooking the river and the municipal pond.  The shelter had been built at a cost of $6000, with Kiwanis Club members doing all of the work themselves, except for the pouring of the concrete floor.  Fifty years later, we are still enjoying their contribution to the park.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

It's been half a century since touch-tone telephone service was inaugurated in the Rochester area.  In September 1966, Michigan Bell officials announced that a new facility on Tienken Road would take over the telephone circuits for Rochester and the old building at the corner of Third & Walnut streets would be vacated.  All 5,800 telephone customers in greater Rochester would be assigned the '651' prefix, and touch-tone calling would be available for the first time in the area.

The company announced that it would no longer offer 4-party lines, but 2-party service would still be available on a limited basis.