About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen is the assistant director and local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She is active in the Macomb County and Rochester-Avon historical societies, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

How Crittenton Hospital Came to Rochester

Crittenton Hospital in Rochester Hills Celebrates its 50th Birthday on August 15 It took ten years to be born. In April 1957, a group of local business and professional people formed a committee to discuss bringing a new hospital to the area. At the time, Rochester had only a small osteopathic facility called Avon Center Hospital, located near the corner of Rochester & Avon roads. Avon Center opened in 1954 with 20 beds – and later expanded to 40 – but lacked many of the services that the … [Read more...]

Healthcare in Rochester with Doctor Siffring Before Crittenton Hospital

Dr. Loren Siffring Remembers Small-Town Medicine Later this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Crittenton Hospital opened its doors to its very first patient. Today, area residents have a wide array of state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and practitioners available nearby. The situation was very different, however, when Dr. Loren W. Siffring first came to town. A friendship forged in the Air Force brought Dr. Siffring to Rochester. He was a native of Colorado, where he … [Read more...]

Remembering the Rochester Explosion

It was one of those events that had people asking, “Where were you when…?” Twenty-five years have passed, but those who were in Rochester at the time can tell you - as if it happened yesterday - where they were and what they were doing when they heard the explosion on May 20, 1992. It was a warm, late-spring Wednesday afternoon in downtown Rochester. The evening rush hour was underway when, at 5:20 p.m., a blast erupted, leveling the northernmost two-thirds of the Crissman building at the … [Read more...]

Rochester Media Acknowledges World War I Social Media Day by Honoring the Horse Named Tess

A century ago - on April 6, 1917 - the United States entered World War I. Today, in towns across the nation, memorials stand in honor of local men who served in the conflict. American Legion posts, like the Homer Wing post in Rochester, bear the names of some of those who gave their lives. But there is one Rochester hero of World War I who has no granite monument to commemorate service during the war. Her name was Tess. The Parke-Davis Company, a prominent Detroit pharmaceutical firm, … [Read more...]

The Battle for Avon Township, Rochester and Rochester Hills, A Tale of Two Cities

As we celebrate the founding of Rochester during 2017, we must also note that Rochester Hills shares the same anniversary. Both Rochester and Avon Township - today’s Rochester Hills - received their first non-native settlers in 1817. Some of the founding Graham family members built their home in what is now the City of Rochester. The rest of them moved out to the area that is now the intersection of Avon & Livernois Roads, becoming the first white settlers of what would become Avon … [Read more...]

Who was James Graham, the Founder of Rochester

An 1877 Oakland County history book records that on March 17, 1817, a small band of emigrants followed the Clinton River inland from Mount Clemens and stopped at the place we know today as Rochester. Here they founded the first non-native settlement in what would later become Oakland County. The group included James Graham, his wife Mary Vandemark, their son Alexander and his wife, their son Benjamin, and Christopher Hartsough. Descendants of the Graham patriarch would remain in the greater … [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...]

Byers Wrecker Service has Hooked-up the Rochester Area for Decades

Byers Wrecker Service Has Been Assisting Rochester Motorists for Decades By Deborah J. Larsen When Rochester area residents need a vehicle towed, they don’t say, “Call a wrecker.” They say, “Call Byers.” For 66 years, the familiar red tow trucks have responded to local residents needing assistance. Harry E. “Gene” Byers started out in auto transport work after serving in the army. But in 1951, he decided to start his own towing business. At first, his “office” was in the restroom of a … [Read more...]

Molnar’s has been Helping Rochester Dress to Impress since 1964

A revolution and a chance meeting with a local entrepreneur were the forces that brought Hungarian-born tailor Frank Molnar to Rochester 52 years ago. Molnar opened his menswear shop on Rochester’s Main Street in 1964 at a time when the standard work uniform for businessmen was the three-piece suit. Molnar possessed the requisite skills to build a successful family firm from the local demand for quality men’s clothing. In his native country, Molnar was apprenticed to a tailor at the age … [Read more...]

Heller’s Has Been Keeping Time for Over Half a Century

The Heller family has been keeping time for Rochester residents for well over half a century in the same Main Street location. In 1961, Ernest and Violet Heller bought an existing jewelry business at 409 S. Main in Rochester, and today their son, George, is the proprietor of Heller’s Jewelry. Ernest Heller was born in Vienna in 1921. When he was 16 years old, his father sent him to the United States to assist his uncle with a business in Detroit. When things didn’t work out as planned with … [Read more...]