Friday, August 28, 2009

Vanished Rochester: The Charles K. Griggs Residence

The Charles Kelley Griggs residence was located at 210 West Fifth Street (now West University Drive), on the northeast corner of West University Drive and Pine Street. C.K. Griggs, a prominent Rochester businessman who owned and operated the Rochester Elevator, built the house in 1886 immediately after his marriage to Martha "Mattie" Kidder. Griggs lived in the house until his death in 1917; the house was later sold and became the home of the Avon Township Library in 1928. Terms of the sale allowed Mattie Griggs to occupy upstairs quarters until her death, which occurred in 1929.

The former Griggs residence served as the home of the Avon Township Public Library for two decades. It was razed in August 1949 as the library prepared for a new building on the same site. That building, the Woodward Memorial Library, opened in 1951 and was used by the library until 1992. Today it houses several small businesses.

Note in this 1907 picture of the Griggs residence the Camperdown elm trees which are visible in the front yard. The Camperdown elm is an unusual tree. In 1640, the Earl of Camperdown in Scotland discovered a branch growing along the ground in an elm forest. He produced the first Camperdown elm by grafting the branch to the trunk of a Scotch elm. As the tree is produced through this grafting process and cannot reproduce itself, every Camperdown elm tree in the world is part of that original tree.

The Camperdown elms on the Griggs property were spared when the house was demolished and the library was built. When the library moved to its current location on Olde Towne Road in 1992, it was hoped that the old elms could be moved there, but this was not feasible. A new Camperdown elm was donated to the library and now stands in front of the building, and the library uses a drawing of a Camperdown elm as part of its letterhead. Meanwhile, one of the two Camperdown elms that are seen on the Griggs lawn in this photo from a century ago still stands today on the lawn of the former library building at 210 West University Drive.

Next time you pass by the old library or visit the current library, be sure to take a moment to admire the Camperdown elms.

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