Saturday, July 28, 2012

Subdivision Stories: Campbell Addition

The Campbell Addition to the village of Rochester was platted in the spring of 1900 on land formerly owned by Alexander F. Campbell, lying south of First Street and north of the Clinton River. His apparent widow, Esther J. Atkinson Campbell, who had married William J. Fraser in 1897, divided the seven-acre parcel into lots and placed them on the market through the local real estate office of E. R. Frank.  The streets in the Campbell addition all bear family names connected to Esther J. Campbell-Fraser; they are Campbell, after her first husband; Fraser, after her second husband; and Hiel, after her son born during her first marriage, whose name was Hiel R. Campbell.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bygone Business: Selma's Smart Shoppe

Fifty years ago, the "go-to" place for exclusive ladies' fashions was Selma's Smart Shoppe, located in the Morse  Block at 323 S. Main. Selma's opened in the fall of 1956, after Earl and Selma Atkinson, formerly of Pontiac, purchased Shueller's store from Robert Shueller, the son of store founder and long-time Rochester merchant Louis S. Shueller.  Earl Atkinson was an employee of the Borden Dairy, and took a leave of absence from his job to help his wife launch the new business that would bear her name.  Selma's was a retail mainstay in Rochester for almost three decades; it closed in the early 1970s, and the Mole Hole gift shop succeeded Selma's at the 323 S. Main location in 1973.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bygone Business: Yates Machine Shop

A business that anchored the foot of Main Street, Rochester for more than three decades was the Yates Machine Shop. The advertisement shown here ran in the Rochester Era on June 4, 1920 announcing that A. W. Yates had purchased the former Jackson Foundry on South Main Street and planned to expand the business. The Jackson Foundry had been operated by John F. and Samuel B. Jackson and originated with the brothers' father, W.H. Jackson, who had come to Rochester in 1877 and purchased the old Jennings Foundry. The Jennings Foundry, in turn, had been one of Rochester's pioneer industries.

The original foundry building had burned in 1884 while being operated by the Jacksons, and had been immediately rebuilt. It was substantially rebuilt yet again by A. W. Yates in the 1920s and was expanded more than once over the decades of Yates ownership.  Yates Machine Shop was a defense contractor during World War II and won the coveted Army-Navy E Award for excellence in production of war equipment.  The business closed in the late 1950s.

After the machine shop closed, several small industrial concerns occupied the former Yates building at 115 S. Main.  In 1970, the building was remodeled and redeveloped as the Gateway Center, and now houses a mixture of retailers, restaurants and professional offices.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Appreciating Rochester and Rochester Hills

From time to time it is a good idea to stop, take a breath, and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.  Those of us who live in the greater Rochester area are richly blessed; our natural environment is lush and welcoming.  I recently ran across a poem published in the Rochester Clarion on February 23, 1934, in which a former Rochester resident named David Reid took the time to admire what he saw around him.  I'll let the poem speak for itself:

by David Reid
I've seen the Blue Ridge Mountains
And the Rockies in the west
But when compared for beauty
The Rochester Hills are best.

We seldom if ever realize
And we sometimes have to roam
Before we can fully appreciate
The beauties we have at home.

I've stood on the bridge in summer
Where many hills are seen
And admired the beautiful scenery
When most everything was green.

I've seen their hills in winter
All covered with ice and snow
I stood in admiration
Till my face was all aglow.

I've watched the sun shining
Many times during the day
On these hills so brightly
That it drove all cares away.

I've seen the sun go down
Behind these hills at night
With colors so impressive
It sure was a beautiful sight.

To Rochester, Nature has been good
And as kind as it could be
It made these hills with beauty
So all that would, could see.
I don't have any further information about the poet, but he did publish several other pieces in the Rochester Clarion around the same time period.  Whoever he was, he clearly appreciated where he lived; 78 years later, his words still ring true.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester area residents were talking about traffic problems. Sound familiar? In July 1962, the issue at hand was congestion in the area of the Tienken and Rochester Road intersection, caused during the afternoon shift change at National Twist Drill.  At the time, Twist Drill was the community's major employer, and the outflow of employee vehicles from its parking lots between 3:30 and 4:00 in the afternoon each weekday caused tremendous traffic backups in the area.

In response to the problem, local official petitioned the state highway department to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Tienken and Rochester, but the state's traffic study revealed that the intersection was only handling 11,855 vehicles in a 24-hour period, which was not enough traffic to qualify for a traffic light. The state suggested that Twist Drill rearrange its parking lots so that employees living north of town parked in the north lot, those living east parked in the east lot, and so forth. Twist Drill responded that 90 percent of its employees lived south of the plant, so such a scheme would have little, if any, effect in remediating the problem.  Instead, the company deployed plant protection personnel equipped with pylons to direct traffic around the plant during the afternoon shift change.