About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Remembering the Case’s Hardware Fire

It has been fifty years since a disastrous fire destroyed Case’s Hardware, one of downtown Rochester’s most beloved and iconic businesses. The store burned on December 12, 1968, in what long-time residents still remember as one of the most difficult and dangerous fires ever to hit Main Street. Case’s Hardware stood on the west side of Main, just south of the bank building on the corner of Fourth Street. The business started around 1872 as Reimer & Thompson, and passed through a … [Read more...]

Rochester’s Holiday Traditions

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, and that means downtown Rochester’s annual Big, Bright Light Show now illuminates Main Street every evening. Currently in its 13th year, the light show is a local holiday tradition that draws crowds from across the metro area. The light show, however, is only the latest version of Rochester’s holiday décor. Our Main Street Christmas makeover began in 1935, when according to local newspaper accounts that the downtown business district was … [Read more...]

Milo Prentice Newberry House Listed on National Register

Rochester House is Listed on National Register of Historic Places Michigan’s newest listing in the prestigious National Register of Historic Places is the Milo Prentice Newberry House in Rochester. The 1863 Italianate-Victorian farmhouse on Bloomer Road was listed in the National Register on October 9, after a yearlong process of application and review by state and federal officials.  Milo Prentice Newberry was part of one of the Rochester area’s pioneer families. He was born in New York … [Read more...]

The Day the Bridge Broke

During this time of year, motorists look forward to the end of the road construction projects that have plagued them all summer long. On October 20, 1990, the Rochester community celebrated the conclusion of a project that profoundly affected the downtown business district and the flow of traffic through town. The event was called the “Bridge Bash,” and it celebrated the re-opening of the South Hill Bridge after a yearlong closure and complete overhaul of the structure. State and local … [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 Lysander Street and Woodward Street were Named

Rochester Has Two Streets Named In Honor of Pioneer Settler Lysander Woodward The Connecticut native came to Oakland County in 1838, married in 1843, and bought property for his family home just north of the village of Rochester. Starting out with an 80-acre parcel, Woodward built a house that still stands today on the west side of North Main, and developed a farm that won an award from the state agricultural society.  Lysander Woodward was successful in farming and business, and his … [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...]

Rochester and the Detroit United Railway

New Book Will Tell Rochester’s DUR History Robert Michalka knows about railroads and local history. The lifelong Rochester area resident is combining his two interests in a forthcoming book entitled Rochester and the Detroit United Railway, scheduled for publication by the Rochester Historical Commission later in 2018. Michalka grew up working on Rochester’s Main Street, where his father, Al Michalka, ran a feed store from 1927 until 1982. The younger Michalka started out at the age of 10 … [Read more...]

How Ludlow Street Got its Name

Street and building names in a town often memorialize the people who helped to create them, but as time goes on and memories fade, the stories behind those names can become lost. Take, for example, Rochester’s Ludlow Street. Do you know for what or whom it is named?  The story of Ludlow Street starts with the Chapman family. William Clark Chapman and his brother, Charles Sherwin Chapman, grew up in and around Ludlow, Vermont. When William was 16 years old, the Chapman family moved from … [Read more...]