Saturday, September 24, 2011

At Home in Rochester: Joseph Reimer House

Rochester hardware merchant Joseph Reimer built this Italianate Victorian style house at 211 Walnut Street in the summer of 1878 as his personal family residence.  Reimer was born in Pennsylvania in 1826 and lived in Upper Mount Bethel township in Northampton County.  Several of his neighbors in that Pennsylvania community also emigrated to Rochester in the mid-19th century, including Azariah Ross, John Ross, Reuben Immick, Francis Stofflet, Dr. William Deats, and Elias Butts.

Joseph Reimer served briefly in the Civil War as the captain of a company in the 153rd Pennsylvania volunteer regiment.  When the war was over, he moved with his wife and four children to Rochester and established a hardware business. In 1878, he built this house on Walnut Street and in 1885 he built a brand-new brick building at 418 S. Main Street to house his store. (The hardware store building still stands today and is now the home of the Sumo Sushi restaurant.  Reimer sold his hardware to his son, Cyrus, and son-in-law, Alvin Bliss, in 1886; eventually, Harvey J. Taylor bought them out and moved the store to 335 S. Main.  Then, Charles W. Case bought out Taylor and the hardware firm became known as Case's Hardware.) Reimer also served the community as a member of the school board for Avon District #5, and as a justice of the peace.

Joseph Reimer died in 1896 and in 1917 his heirs sold the Walnut Street home to Elizabeth Butts Casey and her mother, Julia Bromley Butts.  The two women divided the house into apartments and used it as both a residence and an income property.  After Elizabeth Butts Casey Case died in 1973, her daughter Della Casey Wilson inherited the property, and when her heirs sold it in 1995, it had been in the Casey/Case family for 78 years, more than twice the number of years that the Reimer family owned it.  The house is currently vacant.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Memory's Eye: First Baptist Church

Today's the Memory's Eye camera looks at the former First Baptist Church building on the northwest corner of Walnut and Fourth streets, currently the home of the Village Shoe Inn. In 1855, the First Baptist Church of Rochester, which had been formed in Stoney Creek, purchased an unfinished wood frame building from the Christian Church Society and moved it to this corner in the village of Rochester. The congregation used the building, with numerous alterations and expansions over the years, until 1973, when a new campus was opened on Orion Road.  The former church building on Walnut was sold and became the home of the Village Shoe Inn.

When I was growing up, the brick veneer on this building was painted white, and a pink neon sign over the front door glowed day and night with the words "Jesus Saves."  This mashup view was composed using a recent photo as the background and a ca. 1940 postcard view of the same building displayed  on the tablet screen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Main Street Stories: Knapp's Dairy Bar

Knapp's Dairy Bar at 304 S. Main Street has been in the same business - operated by the same family - from the very first day it opened its doors to the public. Lyle "Red" Knapp started in the restaurant business in Rochester in the 1930s, in a location that is now occupied by the Kruse & Muer on Main eatery. After that business was sold, Red and his wife, Cecelia, built their new dairy bar on a vacant lot next to the Home Bakery building.  They held the grand opening of their restaurant on July 8, 1950, and announced in the newspaper that they would hand out free ice cream cones to all customers, regardless of age, for a four hour period.  "We know we have the finest ice cream that money can buy and we want every person to taste it," Red Knapp told the Rochester Clarion. The dairy bar featured ice cream made by the Mints Ice Cream Company of Birmingham, and the Knapps hoped that the grand opening giveaway would hook their new Rochester customers on the sweet treat.

Not to be outdone, the Avon Dairy announced in the following week's Clarion that it had a new, exclusive formula ice cream called "Wood's Old Fashioned," sold only at the dairy bar located at 606 Woodward Street!

Over time, of course, it was the Knapps' signature hamburger that made their little restaurant locally famous and a favorite of generations of Rochester citizens - none of whom need to consult a menu before ordering at the counter, I might add!

If you're wondering who won the ice cream wars, I'll simply point out that 61 years later, Knapp's Dairy Bar is still in the same location and going strong.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester students were heading back to school and some of them were walking into new classrooms. The newly-constructed McGregor Elementary School opened its doors to students who had formerly attended classes in the old Harrison School at the corner of Fourth & Wilcox.  The Harrison building, meanwhile, was being remodeled to provide more space for students of the Central Junior High School at that location.

The Rochester Clarion reported that the school district was expecting to enroll approximately 5,100 students for the 1961-62 school year, and increase of about 300 over the previous year. The school district workforce also expanded in 1961, rising to the level of 228 employees - up from 200 the previous year.  Fifty years later, RCS enrollment is somewhere near 15,000 and approximately 1,700 people are employed by the district.  Back in 1961 RCS had one employee for every 22 students enrolled; today, the ratio is 8.8.