Saturday, March 26, 2011

Subdivision Stories: Oakland View

The Oakland View subdivision was laid out at the southeast corner of Rochester and Avon Roads in March, 1920. The developer was Detroit's largest bank at the time, the Union Trust Company, represented by vice-president John N. Stalker and secretary Merrill C. Adams. The property had been owned by Mrs. Olive Bromley Fisher Adams and before that was part of the William Fisher farm. The north/south side streets in the subdivision were originally named Wood Avenue (presumably for Walter C. Wood, the civil engineer who laid out the development), Adams Avenue, and Wayne Avenue. The original plat contains a notation that Adams Avenue was changed to Pleasant Street by resolution of the Avon Township Board in 1941, probably to avoid confusion with Adams Road on the west side of the township. The subdivision's east/west street was named Overlook Boulevard, honoring J.J. Snook's Overlook Farm, which was located directly across Rochester Road to the immediate west of the new plat.

None of the street names in the Oakland View subdivision remain today as they were originally platted. In 1950, the Avon Township Board accepted recommendations of the Oakland County Road Commission to change Wood Avenue to Rainier, Pleasant Street (formerly Adams Avenue) to Princeton, Wayne Avenue to Thames, and Overlook Boulevard to Avon Road.

The Oakland View subdivision celebrates its 91st birthday this year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Memory's Eye: 129 East University

If you're like me, and you've lived in the community long enough to have observed many changes to the local landscape, there is sometimes a big difference between what your eye sees and what your mind's eye, or memory shows you. As I look around Rochester, I find myself "seeing" things that aren't really there any longer. The image shown here is a digital attempt to show you what I see when I look at the building at 129 East University. I created it from a contemporary photo, snapped yesterday, and a vintage shot taken in the early 1980s. I hope you enjoy this "memory eye" look at Rochester's past.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

At Home in Rochester: The Marcus E. Carlton Residence

The handsome residence at 428 East Street, on the east side near the corner of University, was built in the summer of 1884 for Marcus Eugene Carlton and his wife, the former Lydia E. Shoup. Lydia's parents, Lemuel W. and Laura Shoup, were pioneer settlers of Oakland Township who lived on East Street in Rochester after they retired from farming. Lydia Shoup married M. Eugene Carlton in 1881, and three years later her parents sold a lot on East Street to the young couple so that they could build a home.

In May 1884, the Rochester Era announced that "M.E. Carlton will soon commence the erection of a beautiful Swiss cottage on the lot just north of his father-in-law L.W. Shoup's residence." A few weeks later, the newspaper's readers learned that the house would be a substantial one, designed by a prominent architect who was well-known in Rochester. The Era reported on June 19, 1884:
M.E. Carlton has let the contract for building his residence on North Oliver st., to Arkin & Jones, for $2,000. The design is Swiss cottage, with all the modern attachments, combinations and improvements. According to the plans and specifications, which were executed by John Scott, of Detroit, "Gene" will have, when completed, one of the handsomest and best appointed residences in this section of country.
(In the late decades of the 19th century, East Street was referred to as Oliver Street and is even so labeled on some maps, even though it was named East Street on the original plat of Rochester and is so named today.)

John Scott, architect of the Carlton house, was not only becoming a prominent Detroit architect at the time, he was also the son-in-law of Lysander Woodward of Rochester. John Scott designed a number of buildings of note, some of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1902 Wayne County Courthouse, the 1888 Gogebic County Courthouse, and his personal residence on East Ferry Street in Detroit. In Rochester, John Scott was also the architect of the old Congregational parsonage house on Third and Pine.

The Carltons had lived in their beautiful new home on East Street for only a few years when they relocated to Flint and established the M.E. Carlton book and stationery store. The business prospered and was a major office supply outlet in Flint for decades during the first half of the twentieth century.

Today, the John Scott-designed Carlton residence serves as an apartment house. The building celebrates its 127th birthday this spring.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bygone Business: Nowels Lumber

Nowels Lumber Yard was located at 412 Water Street, just south of the Rochester Elevator. Owner and operator Russell W. Nowels first came to Rochester in 1920, just after he had been released from the army at the end of World War I. He was an investor with a group of business men who were operating several lumber yards, and the investor group hired Nowels to manage their Rochester yard. He was successful in building up the business and was able to buy it in 1932, when he changed the name to Nowels Lumber & Coal. The Nowels family business grew and eventually included three lumber yards in the area.

Russ Nowels told a Clarion interviewer in the mid-1950s that the Federal Housing Act of 1936 had transformed his industry by popularizing the "do-it-yourself" movement among homeowners. Nowels tried to stay out front of this development with a training program that equipped his employees to instruct homeowners in selection and use of building materials and tools, and he credited this program with the success of his lumber business in the post-WWII era.

The Nowels lumber yard closed in October 1966, and Houghton Power Center took over the building at 412 Water St. Russell W. Nowels died in 1976.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This Month in Rochester History

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Rochester's B.P.O.E. Lodge No. 2225, popularly known as the Rochester Elks. A group of interested men gathered at Knapp's Restaurant on Main Street in late February of 1961 to discuss the formation of a Rochester lodge, and at the end of March, they were granted a charter.

The Elks met for a time in the old Congregational church building at the corner of Third and Walnut, which had just been vacated when the congregation moved to its new, larger campus on North Pine. Eventually, the lodge was able to build its own club building on East University, on land that had been reclaimed from the old Chapman Pond lake bed. That building was torn down to make way for the development of the Sunrise Senior Living facility, and the Elks moved to the corner of North Main and Lysander, to the building that had once been Davey's Market.

Happy Birthday, Rochester Elks!