Friday, April 11, 2014

At Home in Rochester: The Axford Price House

(Photo by Susan Wilson)
This large home on the southeast corner of University Drive and Walnut Street was built in 1894 for Axford Price and his wife Laura Fosdick Price.  Axford Price was the son of local pioneer William Price, who came to the area in 1830 and settled on the Hersey property in Stoney Creek. William Price's wife was Sally Axford, the daughter of Macomb County probate judge Samuel Axford; their son, Axford Price, born in 1834, was named to honor his mother's family. In 1835, when Avon Township was officially organized, William Price was elected to serve as the first township supervisor. 

Axford Price spent most of his life on his farm in Stoney Creek, where he and his wife reared a family of four sons.  This home in Rochester was built as their retirement residence, and Axford lived in it for 15 years, until his death in 1909. A few months after her husband died, Laura Price had the house partitioned to make it a two-family home to accommodate her son, Oscar, and his family. Oscar's daughter, Elna, and her husband, John Plassey, were the next generation of the Price family to occupy the house.

Eventually the Axford Price home was converted for office use, and is currently the home of Potere-Modetz Funeral Planning, among other tenants.  The Axford Price home celebrates its 120th birthday this year.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bygone Business: Lucille Shoppe

For 27 years, the place on Main Street for stylish women to buy clothing was the Lucille Shoppe at 400 S. Main. Robert and Lucille Warren opened the store on October 17, 1946 in the Rochester National Bank building at Fourth & Main (now Chase Bank). The retail clothing trade was not unknown to Lucille Warren; her father, Fred B. Carpenter, had succeeded Louis Finsterwald and Harry Bigger as Rochester's menswear merchants, and her brother, Hilburn, had followed her father into the family business.

In 1952, Lucille's moved to the Masonic Block, where the shop became the neighbor of the venerable Carpenter's Men's Wear. The Warrens added the Boys 'N' Girls Shop to the retail mix in 1964, thereby creating a block of stores that could cater to the clothing needs of the entire family.

For an entire generation of Rochester families, the Lucille Shoppe and its adjunct children's wear store were a popular place to find that special “outfit.” But in November 1973, Lucille's and the Boys 'N' Girls Shop bowed to the enormous economic pressure that nearby shopping malls and discount stores had brought to bear on the Main Street shops and closed their doors.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Month in Rochester History

The talk of the town in April 1964 was a new apartment complex that was going up in the village of Rochester. Wake-Pratt Construction Company of Royal Oak broke ground for the 49-unit Village Apartments on Romeo Road on April 23.  The $700,000 project included three buildings, named Surrey House, Carriage House and Coach House, in keeping with the development's modified Early American architectural style.  Architects for the complex were Lorenz & Paski of Detroit.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mystery Spot

This week's post is a mystery photo, which should be no problem at all for natives of Rochester or those who are well familiar with Main Street.  How well do you know your town?

This photo was taken a few days ago from the sidewalk on Main Street, somewhere in the blocks between Third Street and University Drive.  In front of which store is this little stool to be found?  Post a comment and tell us where it is!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

At Home in Rochester: William Shulter Starring House

This house on the southwest corner of West University Drive and Wilcox Street has historical connections to two long-time Rochester businessmen. It was built in the summer of 1916 as the family home of Rochester druggist William Shulter Starring, who operated Starring's Drug Store at 321 S. Main St. from approximately 1887 until 1923. The Rochester Era newspaper reported in early June 1916 that Starring had broken ground for a new bungalow on West Fifth Street (now University Drive), and updated its readers a week later with the news that the basement of the new house had been completed. The Starrings moved into their new home in October 1916. After retiring from the pharmacy business, they sold the property in 1924 to another prominent Rochester businessman, Charles Louis Sterns, and his wife Rena.

Charles L. Sterns operated the Idle Hour Theatre on Main Street, and in 1936 remodeled it, installed a new Art Deco facade, and re-christened it the Avon Theatre. In 1942, with Rochester's demand for movie seats increasing, Sterns opened the  Hills Theatre on the opposite side of Main Street.  The Avon closed in the early 1950s and the Hills continued as Main Street's only movie venue until it went dark in 1984.

Rochester Avon Historical Society is currently working on a project to bring back the Hills Theatre. Read about the Society's progress in this story from this week's Rochester Post.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bygone Business: Four-O-Six Bar

As Rochester was emerging from the Great Depression in 1936, local resident Carl H. Hartwig bought out the Village Tavern - formerly known as the Merchant's Restaurant - which had been operating at 406 S. Main Street since 1927. Hartwig, who was the brother of Rochester real estate agent Max A. Hartwig, announced that he would open a new cocktail lounge and restaurant in the space after investing about $4,000 in new equipment and furnishings.

Hartwig announced his grand opening in the Rochester Clarion on September 18, 1936, informing local residents that the new establishment would be named the the Four-O-Six, presumably after its street address. The advertisement offered lunches for 45 cents and special “roadhouse dinners” for one dollar.

In 1952, restaurant owner Leonard Bebout needed to vacate his location south of the Opera House block and decided to move Bebout's Restaurant into the building he owned at 406 S. Main. As a result of that shuffle, the Four-O-Six moved up the block to 434 S. Main (thereby creating a local joke: “What's the address of the 406 Bar?”).

The Four-O-Six was known as a comfortable watering-hole where working men could enjoy a beer after the whistle blew at Twist Drill or Avon Tube. That image was tarnished by a tragic incident at the bar on September 26, 1971, when local resident William H. Spencer was shot and killed by another bar patron. As capital crimes were few and far between in Rochester, the murder at the Four-O-Six was the talk of the town and the story became permanently linked with the bar's name. The Four-O-Six closed its doors about two years later.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Main Street Timeline

Rochester is approaching its 200th birthday in 2017, and with two centuries of development in our rear view mirror, there is a lot of history to ponder along Main Street.  This handy timeline illustrates some of the milestones that Main Street has marked along the way. Click on any of the balloon markers to expand it and read more about the event. Some events may be collapsed to the bottom of the frame - just click on the plus sign to expand and view them.  There is even an historic video clip featured in one of the event balloons for your viewing pleasure, but you'll have to find it on your own!