Friday, December 24, 2010

Rochester Elevator Listed on National Register of Historic Places

The Griggs Brothers/Rochester Elevator Company Grain Elevator, located at the corner of Water St. and East University Drive in Rochester, has just been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Brothers Charles K. and Albert G. Griggs built the elevator in 1880 on what was then the Detroit & Bay City Railroad line. At the time, the opening of the elevator was important news for the Rochester area, because it connected local farmers with state and national grain and produce markets and saved them from having to haul their crops to Detroit to sell them. The elevator was a center of commerce for Rochester and contributed to the economic success of the farmers in the surrounding townships.

Charles K. Griggs operated the elevator for about 20 years, then sold it to a business partner, E.S. Letts. In 1909, the building was enlarged at both ends to form the structure that we know today, and the name was changed to the Rochester Elevator Company. The business passed through several other owners before the Smith family took over more than half a century ago. Although it no longer ships grain to market, the Rochester Elevator is the oldest continuously operating business within the city limits of Rochester, and has been housed in the same structure for 130 years. Earlier this year, the Rochester Avon Historical Society nominated the Rochester Elevator for the National Register of Historic Places, and that designation has just been awarded by the Office of the Keeper of the National Register at the National Park Service. Congratulations, Rochester Elevator, on a well-deserved honor!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

At Home in Rochester: The Lloyd G. Satterlee Residence

The cement block home on the southwest corner of North Main and Griggs streets was built by Lloyd Garrison Satterlee, an inventor and entrepreneur, in 1905. Satterlee had invented a process for manufacturing cement roofing tiles and designed the house to showcase his product. He began construction in the fall of 1905, and in the spring of 1906, the Rochester Era reported on his progress:
L.G. Satterlee is busy finishing his house in the Albertson addition, the cement walls of which were up last fall. He proposes a roof of cement shingles of his own patent and manufacture -- both house and barn -- which will furnish a practical test of their utility in all respects. The residence is a model of convenience and is to be finished in the best possible manner.
The house must have attracted positive attention, because Satterlee and other local investors including E.S. Letts, William C. Chapman and George A. Hammond formed the Twentieth Century Cement Tile Roofing Company in Rochester in 1907 to manufacture and sell Satterlee's invention. The company lasted but a few years, and Satterlee moved on from Rochester, eventually settling in Santa Cruz, California.

Eventually, houses on North Main Street transitioned from residential to business use, and the Satterlee residence became the home of Norman Hastings' Culligan Soft Water Service. Today, it is occupied by law offices.

The L.G. Satterlee house is 105 years old this year.
The accompanying photograph shows the Satterlee residence as it looked in 1907.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Subdivision Stories: Elmdale

The Elmdale subdivision at the southwest corner of Crooks & Auburn roads was platted in June 1925 on part of the farm lands of Harry J. and Kate L. Davis Serrell. The Serrells were dairy farmers, and owned a large tract of land in sections 32 and 33 of the Township of Avon, lying immediately south of Auburn Road.

When they platted their subdivision, Harry and Kate Serrell named the streets lying within it for their three children: Grant J. Serrell (1897-1956), Donald J. Serrell (1900-1981) and Alice D. Serrell (1906-1997). Grant St. still exists within the subdivision today, but in 1950 the Township of Avon renamed a number of streets at the suggestion of the county road commission. At that time, Alice St. was renamed Alsdorf, and Donald St. was renamed Donley.

The Elmdale subdivision is 85 years old this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Historical Society Offers Rochester-Themed Holiday Gift Ideas

If you are looking for Rochester-themed gifts for a family member or friend who appreciates Rochester history, the Rochester Avon Historical Society has a variety of items for sale that will fit the bill. The popular Cat's Meow series of wooden building figures has two new entries this year that have arrived just in time for holiday shopping. They are the Hotel St. James, which stood on the southwest corner of Main and University Drive from 1847 to 1962, and the Lysander Woodward house, which stands on North Main at the city limits. Previous issues in the series include popular buildings such as Knapp's Dairy Bar, the D&C, the Home Bakery, and the Rochester Elevator, to name a few.

Also available from RAHS are its publications, including Home Town Rochester, a hardcover, illustrated history of Rochester and Rochester Hills published in 2008, a softcover photo history published in 2000 entitled Rochester: Preserving History - A Pictorial Journey, and several other items.

The Rochester Avon Historical Society is a private, nonprofit organization that operates strictly upon its own membership dues and fund raising efforts, and its mission is to help to preserve what is worthy of our history for future generations, and to educate the community about its heritage. When you purchase merchandise from RAHS, your money is going to help fund activities such as the restoration of the Beerbohm mural, placing of markers and historic designations on eligible properties, the publication of books and pamphlets about our community's history, and a wide variety of public programs offered throughout the year.

If you are in the Rochester area, you will find selected RAHS merchandise for sale at Lytle Pharmacy, the gift shop of the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, and Holland's Floral and Gifts. During the weekend of December 3-5, items may be purchased at the RAHS booth at the Kris Kringle Market on Fourth Street in downtown Rochester. If you are not in the Rochester area, you may purchase items by mail-order by using the order form on the RAHS web site.

Happy holidays, and I hope to see you at the Kris Kringle Market!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Month in Rochester History

Anyone who regularly travels on M-59 has doubtless enjoyed the recent completion of the road widening through Rochester Hills which has had the highway under construction for the past year and a half. It's an appropriate time to look back thirty-eight years to December 1, 1972, when the public dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies took place for the original M-59 expressway between Pontiac and Utica.

On the drawing boards since the early 1960s, the road construction got underway in May 1971 and was completed at a cost of $9 million (not including the property purchases for right-of-way). In contrast, the recent widening project begun last summer to add a third lane between Crooks and Ryan cost $50 million.

At the same time that the Utica to Pontiac expressway was under construction, Macomb County officials were planning to extend it eastward all the way to I-94. At that time, Hall Road still ran through mostly undeveloped property, and the route was feasible. However, the plan never moved forward and retail and housing development along Hall Road ruled out the project after a few years.

This photo, taken by Macomb Daily photographer Robert Sassanella, shows local officials huddling against the December cold for the 1972 ribbon cutting ceremony. Shown from left are: Ron Poli, Kirby Holmes, Gail McCauley, George Nickson, Carol Harris, Thomas Guastello and Donald Bemis. (Photo used with permission from the Macomb Daily).