Saturday, October 27, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Cyrus and Laura Reimer House

Reimer/Fisher house ca.1957 (Swords Family Archive)
This grand house was built at 1690 S. Rochester Road (west side of the road, south of Avon) in 1922 for Cyrus Reimer and his second wife, Laura Clough Reimer. Cyrus Reimer, who was born in 1854 in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, had been a hardware merchant in Rochester, operating the store founded by his father, Joseph Reimer, which he later sold to Harvey J. Taylor. (Taylor, in turn, sold the store to Charles W. Case and it later became known as Case's Hardware). Cyrus Reimer became a traveling hardware salesmen for the Buhl company of Detroit, and also operated a hardware store in Owosso, Michigan, before settling in Cleveland, where he was sales manager for the American Fork and Hoe Company. 

In retirement, Cyrus decided to return to the Rochester area. The Pontiac Daily Press reported in March 1922:
The contract has been let for a fine residence for Cyrus Reimer, to be built on his farm, one and one half miles south of Rochester. Mr. Reimer was formerly a Rochester resident, but has made his home in Cleveland for the last 15 years.
Unfortunately, Cyrus Reimer died just over a year after this announcement was published, so he probably spent very little time enjoying his new house south of Rochester.  Two years later his widow sold the property, as revealed by this item from the Rochester Clarion of April 17, 1925:
William A. Fisher, president of the Fisher Body Works, of Detroit, has purchased the palatial farm home of Mrs. Laura Reimer, one and one-fourth miles south of Rochester on the Rochester pavement. Ward Carey has been engaged as overseer of the farm and will occupy the house, while George Stewart will occupy the tenant house vacated by George Ahrens.
Fisher's name is the one that is most associated with this house, as he owned it for a much longer span of time that the Reimers.  One of the famed brothers who founded the Fisher Body Company that later became a division of General Motors, William A. Fisher used his Avon Township home as a summer getaway and weekend retreat, while living the rest of the time at his primary residence in the Boston-Edison district of Detroit. His Avon Township property was a large parcel in section 22, and he employed local people to farm it for him.

The Fisher property was sold to the Mount Elliott Cemetery Association in 1951, but plans to develop a cemetery on the property never left the drawing board. Instead, the property was sold for development to the Winchester Association in 1969.  About that time, the Reimer/Fisher house was moved west across the fields to a lot on Crestline Street, in the Bogart's Place subdivision plat, which is where it stands today.

To learn more about the Cyrus Reimer house, visit the Oakland Regional Historic Sites record for this property.

Thanks to Melanie and Janet Swords for sharing this image from the Swords Family Archive.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Romney in Rochester Revisited

(Courtesy of Steve Cypher)
After reading my earlier blog post about George Romney's campaign visit to Rochester fifty years ago this month, Remembering Rochester reader Steve Cypher contacted me to share this image from his personal family photo archive.  The photo was taken with gubernatorial candidate George Romney on Main Street, Rochester, on October 11, 1962. Pictured from left to right are Larry Foss, George Romney, John Cypher, Steve Cypher and Ginny Foss. Betty Slazinski is driving the car (for the auto fans, Steve says that's a Fiat 1200 Sport Spyder).  Mitzelfeld's and Holland Florist can be seen in the background of the photo.

My thanks to Steve Cypher for sharing this bit of Rochester history.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rochester on the Road: Photoflash Flares

If you ever find yourself visiting the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, you'll find a connection to Rochester, Michigan in this exhibit from the museum's World War II gallery.  Here is displayed an example of the AN-M26 photoflash flare, which was dropped from airplanes to provide illumination for nighttime bombing missions, or to aid aerial photography.

These flares descended toward their targets on a parachute, which allowed them to burn for about three minutes over the area to be illuminated. They produced about 800,000 candlepower.  The AN-M26 device was 50 inches long and about eight inches in diameter, weighing 52 pounds. Fourteen pounds of that weight was flare charge.

McAleer Manufacturing Company, located  at the time in Rochester at Fourth and Water streets in the building we know today as the Rochester Mills Beer Company, had government defense contracts to build these flares. Thousands of the devices were built, tested and shipped from Rochester to aid the war effort. Mixing and testing of the explosive powders used in these and other McAleer munitions resulted in the injury or death of several McAleer employees.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vanished Rochester: Winkler Mill

Winkler Mill, August 1923
In 1825, pioneer settler John Hersey built a grist mill northeast of the emerging settlement of Stoney Creek, establishing one of the earliest industries in what would become Avon Township.  Captain William Price, a pioneer of Washington Township in adjacent Macomb County, bought the Hersey property, including the mill, in 1837. As proprietor of the former Hersey mill, Capt. Price was credited with grinding the first barrel of superfine flour in Oakland County.

William Price died in 1857, and his heirs eventually sold the mill near Stoney Creek to a German immigrant named Joseph Winkler, Winkler operated the mill for half a century, from 1870 until 1920, and it is by his name that the mill property has been known ever since.

A succession of owners followed Joseph Winkler, but the building had by then seen its last days as a working grist mill.  In 1968, a Michigan historical marker was placed at the mill, recognizing it as a relic of Avon Township's era of exploration and settlement.  To the sadness of the community, the historic structure was completely destroyed by fire in the summer of 1985. The Michigan historical marker that once stood at the site was removed to the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

Monday, October 1, 2012

This Month in Rochester History

Campaign season was in full swing in Rochester fifty years ago this month. On October 11, 1962, the Romney campaign swept into town for a hand-shaking stop.  Republican gubernatorial candidate George W. Romney stood outside the gate of National Twist Drill at Tienken and Rochester at the 3:30 p.m. quitting time, asking workers departing the plant at the close of their shift to support him in his race against incumbent governor John B. Swainson.  After leaving Twist Drill, Romney visited downtown Rochester and walked through Mitzelfeld's and most of the other Main Street businesses, greeting customers and clerks and asking them for their votes in the upcoming November election.

Romney defeated Swainson in the 1962 general election and served as Michigan's governor from 1963 to 1969. (For those of you who are students of American political history, click here to view a film clip of George Romney's announcement of his candidacy for Michigan governor.)