Friday, November 25, 2011

Subdivision Stories: Oakdale

The Oakdale subdivision was platted in 1915 by John William Hopkins and his wife, Elizabeth Lehner Hopkins, on a village outlot lying west of Wilcox Street and south of Fifth (now University Drive). Hopkins was a fire captain with the Detroit Fire Department, and upon his retirement in 1916, he and his wife relocated from Detroit to Rochester.  The new subdivision lay between the existing streets of Wilcox and Castell, and was bisected by a new street, named Wesley.  Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins reserved for themselves a triple lot fronting on Fifth Street and built a new bungalow-style residence on it.  That house still stands today at 623 W. University, and is still on the triple lot, which gives the property extra frontage along University Drive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

At Home in Rochester: Lorenzo D. Morse House

In the summer of 1880, a farmer and businessman named Lorenzo D. Morse came from Lapeer with a plan to build a new brick business block on Main Street in Rochester. At the same time, he contracted for a large residence on Walnut Street, next to the Congregational Church.  The house was built for Morse by contractor John Ross, who was responsible for the construction of many of Rochester's well-known 19th century structures, including the Rochester Elevator, the Universalist Church, the Congregational Church, and the William Deats house. According to a news item in the Rochester Era in June 1880, Lorenzo Morse himself was responsible for the design of his new house, which cost $2,470. The newspaper praised the building as being "first-class."

Morse and his wife lived in the home at 311 Walnut Street for just over a decade, and then moved to Detroit. Lorenzo Morse sold his house in 1892 to Joseph Partello, who was superintendent of the woolen mill at that time.  When Western Knitting Mills took over the woolen mill in 1894, Partello sold the house to William Clark Chapman, the newly-arrived secretary and treasurer of the company. The following year Chapman made several improvements to the house, including the addition of a wrap-around porch, which is visible in the 1907 view of the house that is shown here.

In 1916, Chapman and his wife decided to build a new house at their Walnut Street location, so they moved the former Morse house and relocated it on another lot that they owned at 311 Pine Street, directly behind their Walnut Street lot.  The Lorenzo D. Morse house still stands today at 311 Pine Street, and is now 131 years old.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Memory's Eye: Water Street

When Western Knitting Mills was at the height of its importance as Rochester's principal employer, the company recruited workers - mostly young and female - from all over the Midwest.  To provide housing for this labor force, WKM built boarding houses along Water Street, directly south of and adjacent to the factory building.  The first one went up in 1912 and was quickly expanded to accommodate the growing workforce.  The buildings were torn down in the 1940s after McAleer Manufacturing took over the property, but here's a mashup of a current photo of the streetscape and a vintage photo of the same view, showing the boarding houses. The next time you travel down Water Street, just imagine what the scene looked like a century ago!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Main Street Stories: Lewis Ward Curtis Building

Hitching posts are long gone from Rochester's Main Street, but the town has had a western wear and tack shop at 315 S. Main for over half a century. Dr. Lewis Ward Curtis had this one-story double business block built in 1935 as an income property. Dr. Curtis was a 1902 graduate of the University of Michigan College of Dentistry, and after receiving his degree he returned to his home in Rochester to establish his dental practice. By 1907, he was successful enough to build a new brick building at 307 S. Main Street, which housed his offices on the second floor and provided retail space on the first floor. In 1927, he expanded his Main Street holdings to include the property at 315-317 S. Main.

The site had long been the location of a two-story frame building housing a variety store, originally known as the Newberry building. Anna Newberry sold the old structure to Morris M. Gardner in 1913, and he operated a store there for about a decade before selling to Harry Steinberg in 1925. Dr. Curtis bought the property from Steinberg in 1927 and eight years later razed the old building to make way for a modern, one-story structure.

In October 1935 the Rochester Clarion described the new building:
L.H. Aris, owner and manager of The Variety Store, Rochester's 5c to $5 store for a number of years, will move his entire stock of goods into new quarters in the Dr. L.W. Curtis building at 315 Main street in the next few days.
The Curtis building with the combination red brick and green and black tile front is one of the newer additions to Rochester's Main street. Under the supervision of Carl VandenBerghe, local contractor, the building was completed last weekend.
A double entrance has been made to the store. The front display windows have been partitioned off into three sections. The interior of the building has been covered with Celotex, beautifully designed on both ceiling and walls. Available floor space will accommodate space for display, tables and racks.
In the rear of the building is a large store room. The building is air conditioned, using a blower in the hot air furnace.

Aris sold his store in July 1953 to Donald Butcher, who operated it as Butcher's Variety Store. Bonnie & Charlie Becker opened the B-Bar-B Western Supply at 315 S. Main in 1957. In 1974, the Beckers sold the store to Jerry Leannais, who opened the Arizona Saddlery there.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester was talking about a group of seven boys who had gone on an unusual joy ride.  Seems the seven young lads, who were between the ages of 13 and 16, decided to avail themselves of a small railroad flatcar and take a trip from Rochester to Pontiac on the Grand Trunk tracks.  According to newspaper reports, as they were pushing the car all the way to Pontiac and back, the police were notified that the boys were missing. When it was discovered what they had done (and before it was known that they had, in fact, already made their way safely back to Rochester), train traffic on the Grand Trunk line was slowed to avoid a possible collision with the intrepid band.

It was afterward learned that the idea for the jaunt had come from two boys who were facing an upcoming  hearing in juvenile court, and had talked the other five into the escapade.  The Clarion did not publish the names of the wayward ones, but it has now been half a century since the event, so if any of you are out there, you may confess!