Rochester time-travels through artifacts found in downtown makeover

Now that the construction has wrapped up, findings from the latest Main Street makeover are on display at the Rochester Hills Public Library—taking residents and visitors on a journey through history.

IMG_7477“They were thinking they were going to find all kinds of things,” June Hopaluk, of the Rochester Historical Commission said, “they didn’t find a lot.”

But below layers of concrete and early 1900 bricks, several wells, gas tanks and coal bins were unearthed during last year’s project.

And one of the coal bins discovered held a deeper glimpse of the past.

Found near Fourth Street and Main Street, this particular coal bin held several documents from the then Kroger Grocery and Baking Company that included order forms, payroll and time sheets, inventory papers and some Kroger advertisements.

IMG_7478With the documents dating more than 80 years old, Kroger donated a $2,500-grant to preserve the artifacts and showcase them at the library.

“To think that that history was buried for probably around 80 years and is still in tact,” Hopaluk said, “look at the prices on the ads, or the names on the payroll sheets—of people that worked there and some are still in the community…is really neat.”

Hopaluk, Penny Reddish and Cathy and Jim Pouls of the Historical Commission preserved the documents over the past several months so they could be showcased in the lobby of the library, near the youth department.

IMG_7479Wearing masks and gloves, the volunteers went through the papers “and we took out everything that was salvageable,” Hopaluk said.

“A lot of these documents had been singed and what we think happened was they were probably burned in a furnace when the store was closing and they put them in the coal bin—this is what we think; just speculation.”

The crew is thankful to have had Jim Pouls’ help, as “we could never have done that us three ladies ourselves,” she said. “He worked so hard, he helped us put all the stuff up.”

Circa 1900s Kroger baking tins and miniature trucks were purchased online to enhance the display, Hopaluk said and were not found underground.

In addition to the Kroger materials there are also other artifacts found during construction on display such as large railroad spikes, 1916 bricks and more than a dozen photos of the makeover process.

“With last year’s project, this is right up everyone’s alley,” Jaclyn Miller, head of the library’s youth department said. “And it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.”

IMG_7481She loves when history is on display and says it has been well received by many library-goers.

“People have had a lot of nice things to say about (the display),” she said. “We’ve had a lot of nice comments.”

Whether you were driving through or walking by, everyone was interested in the latest with the downtown makeover, “so this gives a nice summary,” Miller said.

Be sure to check out some of Rochester’s history, as it will be showcased until Thursday, May 30.

After, the collection will be moved back to City Hall to be archived.

“If you really like history, save it if you can,” Hopaluk says, “archive it—your family history; our community history—it’s worth keeping. It tells a story about our past.”

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About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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