Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mystery Spot

This week's post is a mystery photo, which should be no problem at all for natives of Rochester or those who are well familiar with Main Street.  How well do you know your town?

This photo was taken a few days ago from the sidewalk on Main Street, somewhere in the blocks between Third Street and University Drive.  In front of which store is this little stool to be found?  Post a comment and tell us where it is!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

At Home in Rochester: William Shulter Starring House

This house on the southwest corner of West University Drive and Wilcox Street has historical connections to two long-time Rochester businessmen. It was built in the summer of 1916 as the family home of Rochester druggist William Shulter Starring, who operated Starring's Drug Store at 321 S. Main St. from approximately 1887 until 1923. The Rochester Era newspaper reported in early June 1916 that Starring had broken ground for a new bungalow on West Fifth Street (now University Drive), and updated its readers a week later with the news that the basement of the new house had been completed. The Starrings moved into their new home in October 1916. After retiring from the pharmacy business, they sold the property in 1924 to another prominent Rochester businessman, Charles Louis Sterns, and his wife Rena.

Charles L. Sterns operated the Idle Hour Theatre on Main Street, and in 1936 remodeled it, installed a new Art Deco facade, and re-christened it the Avon Theatre. In 1942, with Rochester's demand for movie seats increasing, Sterns opened the  Hills Theatre on the opposite side of Main Street.  The Avon closed in the early 1950s and the Hills continued as Main Street's only movie venue until it went dark in 1984.

Rochester Avon Historical Society is currently working on a project to bring back the Hills Theatre. Read about the Society's progress in this story from this week's Rochester Post.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bygone Business: Four-O-Six Bar

As Rochester was emerging from the Great Depression in 1936, local resident Carl H. Hartwig bought out the Village Tavern - formerly known as the Merchant's Restaurant - which had been operating at 406 S. Main Street since 1927. Hartwig, who was the brother of Rochester real estate agent Max A. Hartwig, announced that he would open a new cocktail lounge and restaurant in the space after investing about $4,000 in new equipment and furnishings.

Hartwig announced his grand opening in the Rochester Clarion on September 18, 1936, informing local residents that the new establishment would be named the the Four-O-Six, presumably after its street address. The advertisement offered lunches for 45 cents and special “roadhouse dinners” for one dollar.

In 1952, restaurant owner Leonard Bebout needed to vacate his location south of the Opera House block and decided to move Bebout's Restaurant into the building he owned at 406 S. Main. As a result of that shuffle, the Four-O-Six moved up the block to 434 S. Main (thereby creating a local joke: “What's the address of the 406 Bar?”).

The Four-O-Six was known as a comfortable watering-hole where working men could enjoy a beer after the whistle blew at Twist Drill or Avon Tube. That image was tarnished by a tragic incident at the bar on September 26, 1971, when local resident William H. Spencer was shot and killed by another bar patron. As capital crimes were few and far between in Rochester, the murder at the Four-O-Six was the talk of the town and the story became permanently linked with the bar's name. The Four-O-Six closed its doors about two years later.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Main Street Timeline

Rochester is approaching its 200th birthday in 2017, and with two centuries of development in our rear view mirror, there is a lot of history to ponder along Main Street.  This handy timeline illustrates some of the milestones that Main Street has marked along the way. Click on any of the balloon markers to expand it and read more about the event. Some events may be collapsed to the bottom of the frame - just click on the plus sign to expand and view them.  There is even an historic video clip featured in one of the event balloons for your viewing pleasure, but you'll have to find it on your own!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

This Month in Rochester History

Clarence Bigger meeting his last passenger train in 1964
Half a century ago, in March 1964, the Rochester Clarion reported that 80-year-old mail messenger Clarence M. Bigger was out of a job.  Bigger was newly unemployed because the New York Central railroad had just discontinued passenger train service in Rochester.  The last passenger train pulled out of the depot on East University Drive on March 19, 1964, leaving Bigger without a job after 57 years of meeting every passenger train to send out or receive mail.  He had won the mail messenger contract in 1912 and had met every train - except for a handful of days of illness - ever since.  The Clarion related his story:
Except on Sundays when there is no mail delivery, and a few times when he was ill, Clarence has met every passenger train coming into Rochester. "Never once have I been late meeting one," he says with pride.

Abiding by postal regulations, he has been required to carry a gun, but has never once had to use it. Once, when accepting a large shipment of money here aboard a Detroit United Railway (DUR) car, he was surprised to learn that seven armed guards had put it aboard the car at Detroit. "I used to handle all the money shipped into the Rochester National Bank," Clarence recalled. "Some days there would be as much as 32 bags of silver."

The New York Central/Penn Central continued to run freight trains on the line through Rochester until 1976; at that time the line was abandoned and the old railroad bed became the Paint Creek Trail.