Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Musings on the D & C Building Ghost

During a recent historical walking tour conducted by the Rochester Avon Historical Society, the subject of the D & C building's ghost was mentioned.  Over the years, many people have reported encountering evidence of a ghost in the building -  now occupied by the Rojo Mexican Bistro -  and have speculated about the identity of the restless spirit or how it might be connected to the history of the beloved dime store. As the property's history was discussed during the tour, it occurred to me that most of the speculation about the ghost has centered around the D & C building - which was constructed in 1940. But what if the ghost predates the D & C and is connected to an earlier event that took place at the corner of Fourth and Main?

The Lambertson block stood on the location where the D &C (now Rojo) building is today.  Built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it housed George C. Dennis's drug store for nearly three decades, and Dennis, a bachelor who lived alone, occupied the rooms above the business, as was common for merchants in those days.  In 1911, with his business failing and about to be seized by his creditors, George C. Dennis committed suicide by swallowing poison.  The shocking news was carried in newspapers around the state, and the Flint Journal reported the sad story on August 25, 1911:
Facing financial ruin after a lifetime of toil proved too much for George C. Dennis, Rochester's pioneer business man, and rather than confront the creditors who were to meet yesterday morning to take over his drug business, he ended his life in the rooms over the store where for 25 years he had lived alone.

Mr. Dennis swallowed a large amount of opium and corrosive sublimate and slashed his left wrist repeatedly with a razor.

The owner of the store building heard moaning in the druggist's apartments when he opened his place of business. On investigation he found Mr. Dennis unconscious but writhing on the floor of his room. Physicians were called, but the man died at 9:30.

The Journal's reporter went on to speculate that times had passed George Dennis by, and that he had become marginalized as a business man:
For many years the drug business was profitable, but of late the old methods employed by Mr. Dennis proved too slow. Little by little, business dropped off until only a few of the older residents and close friends patronized the quiet old man. He became more deeply involved financially each year, and finally yesterday was set for a meeting of the creditors to take over the stock and fixtures in an effort to satisfy their claims. Mr. Dennis had provised to attend the meeting, but evidently during the night decided he could not face the ordeal.

Perhaps it is the tortured spirit of the late Rochester druggist that still haunts the corner of Fourth and Main, where he worked for so many years and tragically died. Is George C. Dennis the D & C ghost?

This portrait of George C. Dennis is from an 1907 promotional booklet entitled Rochester: A Sketch of One of the Best Towns on the Map.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Louis Stanley Shueller Residence

This beautiful Tudor revival home on the corner of University Drive and Castell was built in 1926 for Rochester merchant Louis S. Shueller and his wife, Laura Stadelman Shueller. The Shuellers purchased the lot in the Oakdale subdivision from Robert H. and Mary Wilson in 1921, but did not build on the property until 1926. The Rochester Clarion announced in July 1926 that the Shuellers were preparing to build a residence on their lot, and on November 19, 1926,  told its readers that "L.S. Shueller and family will move into their beautiful new house on West Fifth street the coming week, vacating the G. S. Axford house on South Walnut street." Then, on December 10, the Clarion remarked: "L. S. Shueller and family on Wednesday moved into their new home on West Fifth st."

Louis Shueller had come to Rochester in 1910 when, in partnership with a man named Batdorff, he had started the Batdorff & Shueller dry goods store in the Morse Block on Main Street. Not long after, Shueller became the sole proprietor and the business name was changed to Shueller's. In 1926, the same year in which he built this house as his personal residence, Shueller also bought the Morse Block building and remodeled it. Shueller's store closed in 1956 after 46 years in the same location on Main Street.

Louis Stanley Shueller was born April 20, 1877 in Clinton County, Michigan, the son of German immigrants Michael Shueller and Rosalia George. He died in Detroit, Michigan on November 5, 1953. He married Laura R. Stadelman on September 5, 1910 in Monroe County, Michigan.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bygone Business: E. R. Metcalf Ford Agency

If you were in the market for a new automobile in Rochester in 1910, you could order one from the local Ford agent, Edward R. Metcalf, who was located in the building at 311 S. Main St. Metcalf operated a furniture and undertaking parlor in the store, which he had purchased from Mrs. Thomas C. Severance in 1903. Customers interested in the newfangled horseless carriage could call upon Mr. Metcalf at his store and arrange a demonstration of a new Ford vehicle.

Metcalf was Rochester's Ford dealer until 1911, when he sold his business and moved to California.  The advertisement shown here ran in the local newspapers in April, 1910.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Edward S. Barnes Residence

Edward S. Barnes built this house at the corner of Second and Pine streets as his personal residence in 1906.  Oral history says that this house, along with the Clinton G. Griffey house on University Drive and the Burton McCafferty house on Fourth Street, were all constructed with brick reclaimed from the demolition of the Detroit Sugar Company mill. The mill was dismantled in the spring and summer of 1906, and brick were salvaged and sold locally. The Barnes house, as well as the Griffey and McCafferty houses, were all built during this time.

Ed Barnes at Rochester Junction (Courtesy of Rod and Susan Wilson)
Edward S. Barnes was born in Hope, New Jersey in 1857 and migrated to Avon Township with his parents. In his youth, he was employed in the old Barnes Brothers paper mill, and then spent two decades as station agent and telegrapher at Rochester Junction on the Michigan Central Railroad line. During this time, he built a steam inspection car of his own design and used it as a personal vehicle to travel up and down the railroad line. The little car drew considerable attention, and a story about it was featured in several national magazines (click here to read one of them).

In 1903, Barnes decided to retire from the railroad and enter the jewelry business in Rochester. He built a store at 309 S. Main street, and three years later, built this house at Second and Pine. He sold his business around 1925 and died in his home in Rochester in 1931, at the age of 74.

This view of the Edward S. Barnes house was published in the 1907 Rochester directory.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Month in Rochester History

In May 1962, Rochester area residents were looking forward to checking out the community's newest recreation venue - the North Hill Lanes bowling center, located at 150 W. Tienken. Lou Koprince was the proprietor of the brand-new, 32-lane facility, which is still operating in the same building today.  Grand opening festivities for North Hill Lanes were held on May 17, 1962, and in honor of the event, family bowling passes were offered allowing 40 lines of bowling for four dollars.

Known today as Avon North Hill Lanes, the bowling center deserves hearty golden anniversary congratulations!

The newspaper advertisement seen here is from May 1962. Notice that the telephone number is still the same.