Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

The Avon Playhouse celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month.  It was on December 3, 1965, that the brand-new theatre on Washington Road opened its doors to audiences for the first time. The inaugural play for the new facility was the Avon Players' production of Inherit the Wind.

The Avon Players were organized in 1947, but had no permanent home for the first 18 years of their history.  The members rehearsed in the American Legion hall and in private homes, and gave performances in various venues such as school auditoriums.  After saving $30,000, funding another $30,000 through bonds and raising another like amount through a fundraising drive, they were finally ready to build a stage of their own.

Member Ted Stratton designed the new playhouse, with the assistance of architect Bob Edge.  A local builder donated his services as general contractor, and much of the manual labor on the building project was done by volunteer members of the Avon Players.

Much more about the history of Avon Players and the Avon Playhouse may be found on the organization's web site.  Happy birthday, Avon Playhouse!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, the Rochester area was preparing to welcome a new industry to the community.  Holley Computer Products Company moved into a brand-new facility on the southeast corner of Tienken and Rochester roads.  Holley Computer was a manufacturer of computer printers and had been founded in 1962 by Control Data Corporation and Holley Carburetor.  By 1965, the company had already outgrown its original plant in Warren, Michigan and began looking for a new location for expansion.

A 13-acre site in Avon Township was chosen for a new 60,000 square foot plant that was expected to employ 350 people immediately and eventually employ as many as 800.  The Rochester facility was later renamed Computer Peripherals, but was still a subsidiary of Control Data Corporation.

The company later closed the Rochester plant and the building was razed in 2004 to make way for the City Walk lifestyle shopping development that now occupies the site.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Memory's Eye: Northwest corner of Main and University

This photo of the north side of West University, looking east toward Main Street, was taken by Clarence Whitbey about 1967.  The Houghton Power Center, located in the old Swayze Livery building, and the Rosier-Butts-Swayze house, located on the corner, were torn down about 1970.  The Standard gas station seen in the background stood across Main on the northeast corner, where Knapp's Donut Shoppe stands today.  After the old livery and the house were torn down, the gas station moved across Main to the northwest corner, where it is located today, and the donut shoppe was built on its former location.  Some years later, the Rochester Apothecary building, somewhat reminiscent in style of the old livery, was built along the alley. The only building that appears in both the 1967 and current photos is the Peter Lomason house, which still stands at 113-115 East University and can be seen in the far right background of the frame.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

In October 1965, Matilda Dodge Wilson laid the cornerstone for a new building on the campus of Oakland University, the school to which she and her late husband, Alfred G. Wilson, had donated their 1,500-acre estate.  Mrs. Wilson participated in the ceremony during her 82nd birthday celebration on October 19, 1965, as university officials christened the new building Wilson Hall in her honor.

Wilson Hall was designed by the Detroit architecture firm of O'Dell, Hewlett & Luckenbach, which was best-known for the design of Ford Auditorium.  Wilson Hall opened to students in 1966, and is the home of Meadow Brook Theatre.

To watch a short video on Matilda Dodge Wilson and her legacy at Oakland University, click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

September 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Rochester's Art & Apples Festival.  The very first Art  & Apples Festival (or Art 'N' Apples, as it was known then) was opened for a four-day run on September 16, 1965 with a parade down Main Street, led by Rochester's First and Finest, the Falcon Marching Band. The Rochester Arts Commission, under the general chairmanship of Dr. John Solverson,  developed the plan for Art 'N' Apples and brought the first event to fruition with the assistance of several civic organizations. The festival drew an estimated 20,000 visitors in its inaugural year; Paint Creek Center for the Arts, which now sponsors the festival, estimates that more than 200,000 art enthusiasts will visit during the 2015 event.

Artists participating in the 2015 festival will come from all over the United States and Canada, but the first festival in 1965 had a distinctly local flavor.  A large tent featured the classroom art of students from the Rochester Community Schools. Children eagerly pulled their parents by the hand to show them the projects they and their classmates had been working on.  Adult artists from the community were able to showcase their efforts in the "Sunday Painters" tent, where friends and neighbors could stop by to admire their work.

More information about the 50th anniversary Art & Apples Festival may be found here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Michigan Christian College (now Rochester College) began a 54-acre expansion of its campus on West Avon Road.  In 1957, the North Central Christian College Association had acquired the former Maxon estate on Avon as the location of a new school.  North Central Christian College welcomed its first students in 1959, and changed its name to Michigan Christian College in 1961.  It became Rochester College in 1997.

Back in August of 1965, college leaders were planning for an expected student enrollment of 250 to 275 students by starting construction of a new classroom and office building, as well as a student center and library facility.  Today, Rochester College has an enrollment well over 1,000 students and offers bachelor's and master's degree programs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Month in Rochester History

An important community institution was born fifty years ago this month.  On July 11, 1965, a group of 400 people assembled on some pasture land recently owned by Howard L. McGregor, Jr.  The property was just west of St. John Lutheran School, and the crowd watched as Ormond S. Wessels pushed a shovel into the ground to mark the beginning of construction for Crittenton Hospital.

Two years later, Rochester's first full-service general hospital would open its doors to patients.  Before that day, the community had been served by small hospitals or clinics such as Avon Center and Woodruff-Geiger; residents had been accustomed to traveling to Pontiac, Mount Clemens or Detroit for anything the local clinics couldn't handle. Building a fully-equipped hospital and emergency room was a huge step forward for the community and its health care needs.

View Crittenton Hospital Medical Center's video, above, to see how the facility and campus have grown and changed since 1965.