Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vanished Rochester: Dr. Rollin Sprague Residence

The Dr. Rollin Sprague residence formerly stood at 134 West Fifth Street (now W. University Drive). The exact date of its construction is unknown, but a 1923 Rochester Clarion article estimated that it had been built around 1849, the same year in which Dr. Sprague built his stone store on the northeast corner of Third & Main (now known as the Home Bakery building at 300 S. Main). Dr. Sprague was a prominent pioneer businessman and physician in Rochester, and was also active in township politics.

Dr. Sprague died in 1872, and his widow, Adeline, sold the house about 1884. After passing from the ownership of the Sprague family, the building served as the residence of the Daniel Curry family. Fred M. Shinnick owned the house in the 1920s, and donated it to the village for use as a community house. The community house operated for only a few years before the house was sold to St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, which intended to use the building for a school until Depression-era economics forestalled the plan. Dr. Robert A. Woodruff operated a hospital in the house from 1933 until 1946, when the Homer Wing Post of the American Legion purchased the building.

The handsome residence may have been of timber frame construction, judging by a comment made by Wilson B. Severance in 1964. Severance, who had handled the purchase of the building for the Legion post, wrote of the house:
“I would say the building, particularly the framework, is the same as when originally built … the fact that it is the old time barn type of support. The lumber is thick sold oak. It is almost impossible to drive a nail into it.”
In 1966, the Rollin Sprague house was razed to make way for construction of the office and retail building that currently occupies the site at 134 W. University Drive. At that time, the American Legion moved its post headquarters to the former Michigan Bell office building on the southeast corner of Walnut and Third streets.

Images: The first image is a drawing of the Rollin Sprague residence which appears in the 1877 Durant history of Oakland County. The second image is from a postcard view of the house taken in the late 1920s, when it was serving as the Rochester Community House. Notice that the foundation of the house is of the same coursed cobblestone construction that was used to build Dr. Sprague's store at Third and Main (now the Home Bakery).

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Sprague's wife, Adeline Cooper, was the granddaughter of Col. Stephen Mack, an early pioneer in Oakland County, and one of the stockholers in The Pontiac Company, which founded Pontiac in 1818.

    Adeline's father, David Cooper, was an early Detroit pioneer, arriving in that city in 1799; he was a merchant and trader.
    --Ray Henry