How Drace, Griggs and Albertson Streets Were Named

On the eve of the twentieth century, the village of Rochester was in a bit of a crisis. The year was 1899, and what had been a quiet farming community was changing rapidly. An interurban line (later to be known as the D.U.R.) had just laid tracks through the heart of town along Main Street. The Detroit Sugar Company was building a huge processing plant on Paint Creek, and business was booming in anticipation of all the new economic activity that these ventures would bring. 

Albert G. Griggs

Albert G. Griggs

There was one problem: housing. The interurban line didn’t just bring its tracks through town; it built a car repair facility and a powerhouse. Rochester was meant to be an important hub for the interurban company, and its powerhouse would generate the electricity to run the entire Flint Division of the line. The car barn and the powerhouse were staffed with workers who needed housing in Rochester. Likewise, the Detroit Sugar Company’s mammoth mill on the north side of the village was slated to employ about 250 workers at peak. The Western Knitting Mills plant, which had been completed just four years earlier, had a payroll of about 300 workers at the time. There was simply not enough housing stock in the village of Rochester to accommodate all of the new workers who were coming to town.  

Related Article: Water-Powered Mills of the Rochester Area

Enter local merchant Frank Drace and his business partner, Albert Griggs. Both the Drace and Griggs families were prominent in local business and government. Drace’s father, William H. Drace, had come to Rochester from New York State as a boy. He worked in the paper mill of his uncle, William Barnes, and eventually succeeded his uncle as the general manager of the mill. The elder Drace also served more than a decade as a member of the village council. For his part, Frank Drace ran a grocery and meat market and had several other business interests, including real estate. 

Drace Street Sign

Drace Street Sign

Meanwhile, Albert Griggs had a two-fold career. In 1880, he and his brother, Charles, had started the Griggs Brothers Elevator (now the Rochester Elevator), in which Albert remained a silent partner. Griggs was also involved in the banking industry and owned acres of peach orchards in Avon and Washington townships. He was active in politics at the state and county levels, where he served for many years as Oakland County Register of Deeds and as a member of the Michigan legislature. 

Griggs and Drace invested in a 32-acre parcel on the former John Albertson farm, which lay west of Main Street and north of Paint Creek. The two partners platted the land as the Albertson Addition, laying out 50-foot residential lots on streets that were named Drace and Griggs. The third street was named Albertson to carry forward the surname of the former owner of the property. It was a personal connection, as the land had been the childhood home of Frank Drace’s wife, Minnie Albertson. 

Albertson Addition Shown on 1908 Map of Rochester

Albertson Addition Shown on 1908 Map of Rochester

The proprietors of the new subdivision held an absolute auction of lots in the Albertson Addition at the Rochester Opera House in June 1900. Advertising for the sale enticed buyers by noting: “The Detroit, Rochester, Romeo and Lake Orion Electric Road passes this property and you have only to step from your door onto the finest electric car in the country, running to Detroit, Romeo, Orion, Oxford and in the near future to Flint and the Saginaws. The time is not far distant when 30 to 40 trains will pass this property daily.” 

The evidence suggests that this pitch was effective. All 136 lots were sold on the day of the auction, the first lot going to Superintendent of Schools A. L. Craft for $200. Before long, new houses on Drace, Griggs and Albertson streets were sheltering families connected with the sugar beet mill and the interurban line. Many of the original houses in the subdivision were built between 1900 and 1910.

Also Read:

How Lysander Street and Woodward Street were Named

How Ludlow Street Got its Name

How Wilcox Street Was Named

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.

Comments

  1. Donald Worrell says:

    Thank you for another excellent article by local historian Deborah Larsen!

  2. Our town is a jewel and its history is fascinating. Thanks to Debbie Larsen our history is brought to us in succinct and clear articles such as this. Thanks RM for recognizing her talent and printing these stories.

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