The Rise and Fall of Entertainment Venues on Rochester’s Main Street

In its more than two centuries of existence, Rochester’s Main Street has hosted its fair share of public entertainment venues. As the village grew from a pioneer outpost to a thriving town, Main Street’s business owners stepped up to provide social outlets for the community. Rochester Opera House block as it looked about 1910. Curtain Up A minstrel show and brass band concert was advertised at Newberry Hall in 1876. The first public gathering place capable of seating a crowd—aside … [Read more...]

Power to the People: How Electricity Came to Rochester

Unless a power failure happens, modern Rochester residents tend to take their electric service for granted. However, at the end of the nineteenth century, electric lights were a novelty enjoyed by few and coveted by many—until an interurban line came to town with the power to change everything. Clerks at work in the Rochester Edison building, September 1923. Rochester in the 1890s was a bustling place during the day, but the setting of the sun had a natural dampening effect on the level of … [Read more...]

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...]

Rochester Explodes with History as Part of the “Arsenal of Democracy”

The “Arsenal of Democracy” in Rochester: How McAleer Manufacturing Helped Win a World War During the recent months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen Michigan manufacturers—including several in the Rochester area—pivot from their usual course of business to manufacture ventilators, PPE, and other high-priority items in response to our nation’s health emergency. This is not the first time our Rochester businesses have made such a transition in the national interest; during World War II, … [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...]

Rochester’s Pest House Was an Early Answer to Outbreaks of Disease

As we cope with the various levels of disruption in our daily routines made necessary by the response to the COVID-19 virus, it is interesting to look back at the way contagious disease was handled in our community in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In small communities like Rochester, there were no hospitals at the time. A village might be fortunate enough to have a physician or two in residence, but there were no cures and few effective therapies available for the primary … [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...]

Whims Insurance Celebrates a Century in Rochester

By Deborah J. Larsen When Tom Klix and his sister, Connie Klix Mercer, head to their offices at Whims Insurance each morning, they take a literal walk down memory lane. The company’s offices are on the second floor of the Mitzelfeld building at 322 S. Main Street. The municipal parking lot behind the building sits on property that was once the home of Klix and Mercer’s grandparents, Leslie and Lyla Whims. The two siblings now run the insurance agency their grandfather founded. They … [Read more...]