How Lysander Street and Woodward Street were Named

Rochester Has Two Streets Named In Honor of Pioneer Settler Lysander Woodward

The Connecticut native came to Oakland County in 1838, married in 1843, and bought property for his family home just north of the village of Rochester. Starting out with an 80-acre parcel, Woodward built a house that still stands today on the west side of North Main, and developed a farm that won an award from the state agricultural society. 

Old Black and White Photo of Lysander Woodward

Lysander Woodward

Lysander Woodward was successful in farming and business, and his holdings grew to almost 300 acres. The Woodward farm eventually comprised much of the land lying north of Romeo Street and south of Tienken. Woodward was a visionary leader in his day, and realized that prosperity would come to the sleepy village of Rochester if it were connected to the rest of the world by railroad. 

When the Detroit and Bay City Railroad was organized, Woodward lobbied for the line to pass through Rochester. He was a tireless ambassador for the railroad, speaking at meetings in towns all along the proposed route to help secure funding and right-of-way. His efforts paid off in October 1872, when the rails reached Rochester and the first train rolled into the village. The railroad company repaid Woodward’s efforts by naming him the first president of the line. 

Image of the 1872 Map

Woodward Farm shown on 1872 Map

As Lysander Woodward had foreseen, the railroad line changed Rochester’s fortunes. The ability to ship crops to markets was a boon to the area’s farmers. Telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks, and soon Rochester had instant communication with the outside world, when it had previously depended upon the stage from Pontiac to bring the news and mail. The availability of telegraph dispatches brought a viable newspaper to town in 1873. Woodward and his railroad put Rochester on the map and ended the community’s isolation from the centers of population. 

Three years after the railroad came to town, Woodward decided to plat and sell off part of his holdings lying on the northern village boundary. The Woodward Addition, as the subdivision was named, was the second expansion of the original plat of the village of Rochester. Bounded on the south by Romeo Street and on the west by North Main Street, the new subdivision was bisected by a street named Lysander in honor of the family patriarch. 

Plot Map Image

Plat of The Woodward Addition

Lysander Woodward was active not only in farming and in business, but in politics as well. He served at various times as Oakland County Treasurer, Avon Township Supervisor and Justice of the Peace, and as a state representative in the Michigan Legislature. In 1878, Woodward made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor of Michigan on the Greenback ticket. 

In January 1880, Lysander Woodward died from complications of asthma that had plagued him for his entire life. According to local newspaper accounts, he was held in such high esteem that most of the town turned out for the funeral held at his residence on North Main. Mourners spilled out on the lawn because the house could not accommodate all of them. The newspaper noted that the townspeople lined up to follow the cortege from the house to Mount Avon Cemetery – in the dead of winter. 

Photo of Lysander and N. Main Street Sign

Lysander Street Sign

Woodward’s heirs sold part of the family farm for development in 1920, creating the Woodward Heights subdivision that now includes Glendale and Ferndale streets. The southern boundary of this plat was originally known as Sugar Avenue, because it ran from North Main to the Detroit Sugar Company mill on Paint Creek. In 1927, however, acknowledging that the sugar mill was long gone from the scene, the village council voted to change the name of Sugar Avenue to Woodward Street, in honor of Rochester’s pioneer family.

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Speak Your Mind