Old Maps Reveal Interesting Truths You Might Not Know About Rochester

How well do you know your Rochester trivia? Old maps can be a treasure trove of information about a community’s history, and vintage maps of Rochester are no exception. A close examination of these nineteenth-century documents reveals three interesting tidbits about our area’s past. The intersection of Main Street and University Drive could logically be considered the “birthplace” of the village of Rochester. This intersection is a key location in Rochester’s history for two reasons. … [Read more...]

The Haven Sanitarium, World-Renowned Mental Health Hospital of Avon Township

Rochester-Avon Historical Society will present “The Haven Sanitarium” with historian and society president Tiffany Dziurman on Thursday, May 6 at 7:00 p.m. on the society’s online Zoom platform. Dziurman will share her latest research about The Haven Sanitarium, a world-renowned mental health hospital that operated from 1932 to 1968 in Avon Township (now Rochester Hills), MI. The hospital was located on what is now the Grosse Pines Subdivision on Walton Boulevard.  “The Haven has a unique … [Read more...]

The Woman’s Relief Corps Served Rochester for Generations

A quilt on display in the farmhouse at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm is a window to the charitable work of a Rochester women’s organization that served the community for three-quarters of a century. The center panel of the WRC quilt identifies it as the product of Rochester post 227 (From the Archives of the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm). One year after the Civil War ended, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was formed as a veterans’ advocacy and fraternal … [Read more...]

Howlett Park Honors Rochester’s First Police Chief

A city park on Inglewood Avenue is named in honor of the man who built a modern police department for Rochester and helped to shape the town’s safety and prosperity for almost half a century. Rochester Police Chief Sam Howlett at his desk (Courtesy of Barbara Howlett Bates) Samuel “Sam” Howlett was born in 1909 in the area historically known as the Big Beaver settlement, which was centered around the intersection of Rochester and Big Beaver roads in Troy Township. Howlett’s family roots in … [Read more...]

From Sugar Beets to Baseball: How Halbach Field Got its Name

An abandoned dumping ground for the old Detroit Sugar Company mill took on new life in the 1920s when it became Rochester’s high school and community athletic park. After the Detroit Sugar Company demolished its factory at the west end of Woodward Street in 1906, the company deeded the property back to the village of Rochester. Around 1923, local residents started using the portion of the vacant land on the south side of Woodward and east of the railroad track (today’s Paint Creek Trail) as … [Read more...]

Rochester’s Great Sugar Disaster

In 1899, Rochester area residents enthusiastically signed on in support of a new agricultural and industrial venture that they hoped would bring jobs and a rich infusion of capital to the community. Because of their efforts, the chimneys of the imposing Detroit Sugar Company mill rose quickly over Paint Creek, but in only seven years’ time they would be nothing more than a memory. The Detroit Sugar Company factory at Rochester as it looked while under construction in 1899. At the turn of … [Read more...]

Rochester-Avon Historical Society Publishes New Heritage Tour Book

With a generous grant provided by the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester, Rochester-Avon Historical Society recently published a new book titled, History in the Heart of the Hills: A Rochester Area Heritage Tour. This historical tour guide introduces the reader to the heritage sites of Rochester and Rochester Hills, Michigan, that have withstood the test of time and continue to poke through the fabric of the local landscape. Included are commercial, residential, industrial, and … [Read more...]

Building’s Facelift Reveals Hidden Rochester History

The Gateway Center building on Main Street near the South Hill Bridge is undergoing a makeover, and the work has revealed a long-hidden link to Rochester’s industrial history. When workers recently removed the false front from the building, they uncovered an old, stone nameplate bearing the name “Yates” and the year 1929. Longtime Rochester residents will remember this building as the Yates Machine Works. The former Yates Machine Shop building is currently undergoing a facelift - Photo by … [Read more...]

The Story of Rochester’s Noon Whistle

Nobody who lives or works in the vicinity of downtown Rochester needs a watch to know when it’s lunchtime. Six days a week, at high noon, the blast of the fire department’s siren marks the midday hour. However, the daily sounding of the noon whistle has nothing to do with signaling a meal break and everything to do with a devastating fire that nearly destroyed an iconic Main Street business. This photo shows clean-up work in progress two days after the Phillips & Jerome fire. Back in … [Read more...]

The Man Who Went to School for 45 Years

The Rochester Community School District has named several of its buildings in honor of well-known educators, administrators, or civic leaders. However, the district’s oldest building is not named for a teacher or a public official—it is named after the building’s caretaker, who was a friend to all of the students he served during his 45-year tenure there. The 1889 school building as it appeared during William Harrison's tenure. The rise of Fourth Street as it approaches Wilcox Street was … [Read more...]