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...]

Dear Crabby, Why is the Rochester Hills Public Library Located in Downtown Rochester?

Dear Crabby, Why is the Rochester Hills Public Library Located in Downtown Rochester? Sincerely, Eva W. Hill Hello Eva, The library has a long history and someone should write a book about it. But not me. This question comes up a lot in conversation, especially from out of town visitors and from folks who just moved to the area. And to make things even harder to understand, the library serves Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township equally. So again. people ask, why does the … [Read more...]

Rochester Municipal Park Has Been the Place to Play for 85 Years

The Avon Park dam formed a popular swimming hole. The dam and bridge were dismantled in the 1980s. (From the Archives of the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm) Eighty-five years ago this summer, Rochester residents dedicated a new recreation spot on Paint Creek. Built on the site of a bankrupt dairy farm and a long-abandoned millrace, Avon Park—now Rochester Municipal Park—quickly became a favorite place for area residents to swim, picnic, and play. The property on which Rochester … [Read more...]

Ferry-Morse Garden Seeds Have Rochester Area Roots

If you started vegetables or flowers from seed this spring, you may have used seeds from the Ferry-Morse company currently headquartered in Norton, Massachusetts. If so, your seeds have long historical ties to Michigan and the greater Rochester community. In 1852, Dexter Mason Ferry came to Detroit with plans to attend college and began a night job as a bookkeeper for a small seed house. Four years later he became a partner in the firm, and in 1867, he and other investors took over the … [Read more...]

Yates is the “Granddaddy” of Rochester Area Cider Mills

The nation was in the throes of the Civil War when William Henry Yates and his wife, Caroline, bought 80 acres of land on the Clinton River in southeastern Avon Township. It was April 1863, and the Yateses, with their nine-year-old son, Frank, made the trip to their new home in Michigan from Madison County, New York. Settling on land at what we know today as the intersection of Avon and Dequindre roads, William Yates used an existing dam on the Clinton River to power a lumber and … [Read more...]

The History of Brooklands

The "Brooklands" have a Long History with Big Changes Coming The Brooklands area in southeastern Rochester Hills is undergoing a makeover project this summer. The Auburn Corridor Plan seeks to attract new investment in Brooklands by improving traffic flow, parking, pedestrian and bicycle paths, landscaping, neighborhood amenities and curb appeal of commercial structures. While much discussion time has recently been devoted to the future of Brooklands, far less attention has been given to its … [Read more...]

The History of MeadowBrook Village Mall

From Fox Farm to 1800s Themed Mall to The Village Today, the northeast corner of Adams Road and Walton Boulevard is the home of the Village of Rochester Hills, an outdoor shopping destination. Longtime residents of the area will recall that the predecessor of the Village of Rochester Hills was MeadowBrook Village Mall, an enclosed shopping center that occupied the location for about a quarter century.  Detroit Silver Fox Farms However, long before either of the shopping centers was built, … [Read more...]

The Hamlin Family Legacy

The Story of the Hamlin Name in the Rochester Area Hamlin Road, Hamlin School, Hamlin Place Farms Subdivision – even Hamlin Pub – all owe their names to a pioneer settler of Avon Township (now Rochester Hills) named John Fairchild Hamlin. The immigrant ancestor of John F. Hamlin settled in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1640. Some branches of the family moved on to New York State, where John Fairchild Hamlin was born in the Finger Lakes region in 1799. Hamlin family footprints are … [Read more...]

The History of Winchester Mall

The Winchester shopping center at Avon & Rochester roads is now in the process of entering its third incarnation as a retail development. Earlier this year, the owners sought approval from the City of Rochester Hills for another makeover of the site. An Art Van furniture store will occupy space that has been vacant since the K-Mart store closed in December 2014. The plan also calls for new outbuildings to house an Aldi grocery and a restaurant, as well as a complete redesign of the parking … [Read more...]

How Wilcox Street Was Named

Do you know the story behind the name of Rochester’s Wilcox Street? Early Avon Township settler Lyman J. Willcox and his son Elliot R. Willcox owned part of the land through which Wilcox Street now runs. According to an 1883 account in the Pontiac Gazette, Lyman Willcox left New York City with nothing but a rifle and a pack on his back and walked westward, traversing Ontario, and finally coming to Michigan. He stopped first in Troy Township and then settled in Avon Township in 1824, where … [Read more...]