Saturday, June 30, 2012

Main Street Stories: Simon Grube Cigar Factory

331 S. Main in 2008 (Photo by Eric Bothwell)
A recently published encyclopedia of Michigan history and culture entitled The Michigan Companion (Detroit: OmniGraphics, 2011). tells us that Detroit was once known for cigar manufacturing. In that narrative we find this information:
During the last half of the 19th century, Detroit became a center for the tobacco industry in the United States and by the 1890s was one of the largest centers of cigar manufacturing in as well. ... At its height [in the late nineteenth century], the cigar industry employed about 12,000 workers who produced 205 million cigars a year.
Not far from Detroit, the village of Rochester had its own cigar factory right here on Main Street. The small, one-story building at 331 S. Main was built by Simon Grube in the fall of 1891 to house his cigar factory and tobacconist business, as noted by the Rochester correspondent to the Utica Sentinel on October 10, 1891, when the paper told its readers: "'Sim' Grube broke ground today for his new brick cigar factory. The new building is to be situated on the west side of Main street, between Harrison's shoe shop and the Barger lot,  Mr. Grube having purchased the site from Ben Harrison."

331 S. Main in 1961 (Photo by the late Walter Dernier)
Although Grube operated his tobacco business in the building until 1920, it is his successor who is better known  and associated with that location.  Grube, who was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in 1845 and emigrated to Rochester along with a large number of other families from his native county, sold the business to Frank Butts, who continued in the cigar and tobacco business there for another two decades.  Butts was also a native of Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

After Frank Butts retired from business, the building which had served as a cigar factory and tobacco shop for the first half-century of its existence became the home of Avon Cleaners. In the 1960s and 1970s it was the home of Cam and Phyllis Soule's appliance store, and in recent years has housed a number of specialty shops including the Cose di Lusso wine shoppe and the Simply the Best $10 Boutique.

The Simon Grube cigar factory celebrates its 121st birthday this fall.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Hiram L. Lintz/A.R. Dillman Residence

The large home now serving as an apartment house on the southeast corner of Second and Walnut streets has a historical association with several well-known names from Rochester history.  The house was built as a private home by Hiram L. Lintz in 1901, and the details of its construction were noted by the Rochester Era during the summer of that year. Lintz was a well-known farmer in Shelby Township before he came to Rochester in 1892 to join P. M. Woodworth in a furniture and undertaking business. The firm of Woodworth & Lintz was located in the store at 311 S. Main, where Haig's Jewelry is today.  P. M. Woodworth died in 1896, and Hiram Lintz continued the business in partnership with Woodworth's widow until 1899, when the two sold the business to Thomas C. Severance.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the funeral portion of this business has survived to this day. It was originally established in 1882 by W. Harvey Greene, who sold it to P. M. Woodworth in 1886. Woodworth, in turn, took Hiram L. Lintz as a partner, and Woodworth & Lintz was sold to Thomas C. Severance in 1899.  Edward R. Metcalf bought the business from Severance in 1903 and sold it around 1911, to Vernor Spaulding.  Spaulding moved it to a location off Main Street and sold it to Alanson  C. Hobart. In 1950, Hobart sold it to Potere & Winkel, and not long after that William R. Potere became the sole proprietor.  In 1986, Potere sold to John Modetz, and today we know the business that was started by W. Harvey Greene in 1882 as Potere-Modetz Funeral Home.

Returning to the subject of the Lintz home on Walnut Street, it was sold to Rochester lumber dealer Arthur R. Dillman (of Dillman and Upton), who occupied it as his family home until about 1927, at which time the Dillmans built a new home on North Main. Silas B. Wattles bought the house from the Dillmans at that time and sold it to Elizabeth Butts Casey Case in 1939. In 1940, Case had the house partitioned into four apartments and operated it as an income property for a number of years, as she did with several other large houses in Rochester.

The Lintz house celebrates its 111th birthday this summer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Main Street Stories: Amariah Trowbridge/Julian S. Peters House

Trowbridge/Peters house ca. 1904 (before addition)
Earlier in Rochester's history, their were numerous dwellings interspersed among the commercial buildings in Main Street's business district.  In 2012, only one of those houses remains standing, and that is the Amariah Trowbridge/Julian S. Peters house at 200 S. Main, occupied today by the Chomp Deli & Grille.

The exact date that Amariah Trowbridge built his house at the south end of Main Street is not known, and deeds for the property are somewhat murky, but we do know that the first year that Trowbridge appears on the tax rolls as owner of this property is 1864. Trowbridge was born in Steuben County, New York in 1830, and came to Oakland County with his parents. When the Civil War erupted, he enlisted in Company G, 22nd Michigan Infantry, and was later transferred to Company G, 29th Michigan Infantry.  He lived in Rochester from his return from the Civil War until his death in 1886, and was an employee of the Barnes Brothers Paper Mill during that entire time.

After Trowbridge died, one of his comrades in arms purchased a portion of the property - not including the house -  from his estate. Julian S. Peters,  who had served with Trowbridge in Company G, 22nd Michigan Infantry and later with Company G, 29th Michigan Infantry, bought the north half of the lot on which the house stood and conducted a carriage painting business there. The south half of the lot, on which the house stood (corner of Second Street) was originally sold to other parties, but in 1904, Julian Peters bought that as well.
On November 18, 1904, the Rochester Era carried this item about the house:
J.S. Peters is overhauling the old Trowbridge house. He will raise the roof three feet, drop the building and place a good cellar under it, making a neat tenement house of it.
Later, Peters also built a one-and-a-half story addition to the north side of the house.

Julian Peters served as Avon Township Clerk in 1874-75 and also served 21 years as Justice of the Peace in Rochester. Peters was proud that during his years as Justice of the Peace, not one of the thousands of cases he tried was ever reversed on appeal. After retiring from public service, he conducted a real estate and insurance business. He owned the property at 200 S. Main St. until his death in 1931, when it was sold by his heirs.

In 1945, Rochester automobile dealer C. Lawrence Jerome bought the property and converted the house to office space for the Jerome Insurance Agency. That business was known as the Jerome-Hill Insurance agency in the 1950s, and later as the Hudson G. Hill Agency until the late 1970s. The house has also been occupied, at various times, by Teague Finance, GAC Finance, H&R Block, and Rochester Accounting and Tax Service. The Chomp Deli & Grille opened there in May 2010, following the Beyond Juice restaurant at the location.

The Trowbridge/Peters house is significant as the only remaining example of a mid-19th century dwelling remaining in the business district of Main Street. It serves to remind us what the village's Main Street looked like in those days.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Main Street Stories: Leslie L. Whims Building

(Marjorie and the late Walter Dernier Collection, ca.1961)
Do you know where the bowling alley was on Main Street in downtown Rochester? If you were in town between 1926 and the early 1970s, you may have visited Rochester Lanes at 430-432 S. Main.  The building at 430 S. Main was constructed in 1926 for Rochester businessman Leslie L. Whims, and while the street level of the structure housed an auto garage and showroom, it was the basement that drew the attention of the town as the building neared completion.  The Rochester Clarion told its readers on November 5, 1926:
After this week Rochester can well boast of having one of the finest bowling alleys to be found in the state, the entire basement of the new Whims block, from the main street to alley, a depth of 150 feet, to house four alleys all of the most modern equipment and furnished in keeping with the fine place it now gives promise of being.
(Rod and Susan Wilson Collection, 1960)
Rochester Motor Sales, operated by George Ross, occupied the main floor of Whims building for many years, along with Leslie Whims' insurance office (Whims Insurance, founded in 1917, is still a family business and is now our community's oldest insurance agency). The main action, however, must have been in the basement, because in 1945, Whims added a building next door to the north and doubled the size of his bowling alley from four to eight lanes. War time shortages slowed progress on the building, but the Rochester Era shared the good news of the expanded bowling alley's completion with the town on September 5, 1946:
After bucking a year of shortages of materials and all the other things which go to make a post-war building project a real headache, the new alleys are completed in an excellent manner and the facilities are double the size of the old alleys, there being eight Brunswick Lanes with the maples standing at the other end inviting the hundreds of bowling enthusiasts.
Did you learn to bowl at Rochester Lanes? Did you set pins there?  Tell us in the comments.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vanished Rochester: The John H. Hawken Residence

John H. Hawken House, 131 E. Fourth St., in 1977
John H. Hawken House, 131 E. Fourth St., in 1897
This large Victorian home stood on the northwest corner of Fourth and East streets, where a municipal parking lot is located today.  It was built in 1895 by John H. Hawken II, as his family residence.  According to the pamphlet Beautiful Rochester, which was published in 1897 and carried an item about Mr. Hawken along with a photograph of his home, Hawken was born in Ontario in 1871. He came to Rochester with his father's family in 1880 and went to work in the woolen mill, rising quickly to the position of assistant superintendent of the Western Knitting Mills after that company moved to Rochester from Detroit.  Beautiful Rochester described John H. Hawken as "one of the rising young men of the village," and that certainly appears to have been an accurate assessment.  Hawken was only 24 years old when he built this house, which he shared with his widowed mother and siblings until 1900, when he married Catherine "Kittie" Cullen. The couple had one child, William Cullen Hawken, who later became a physician in Detroit.  Tragically, John H. Hawken did not live to see his only son; he died of tuberculosis in April 1902 at the age of 31, a few months before the birth of his child.  According to his death certificate, Hawken was superintendent of the Western Knitting Mills at the time of his demise.

Following the death of John Hawken, the house on East Fourth Street was purchased by William O. Brewster;  in the 1930s, Elizabeth Butts Casey (later Case) bought it and converted it to an apartment house. The Hawken house served as an apartment building to the end of its days, which came in late 1977, when it was razed to make way for a municipal parking lot and thus passed into the pages of Vanished Rochester.

Friday, June 1, 2012

This Month in Rochester History

In July 1962, Rochester was observing another fascinating construction project that was underway downtown, and like the Main Street Makeover that we've been watching recently, this one also involved a lot of digging. Ground was broken on June 6, 1962 for a 200-foot tunnel that would connect the National Bank of Detroit building at the corner of Fourth & Main (now Chase Bank) to a brand-new drive-in bank facility that was going up on the east side of Walnut near Fourth.   A tube seven feet in diameter was buried in an excavated trench that ran beneath the West Alley to the site of the new building, located just to the north of the former Methodist church (now Masonic Temple). The underground passageway allowed bank employees to move easily between the two structures without going outside. The new drive-in bank was designed by architect Clarence E. Noetzel (1924-1994) and built by P.H. Williams & Son, contractors. It opened for service in October 1962.