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? 

Photo of the Ludlow street sign

How Ludlow Street Got its Name

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 Vermont to Detroit. The two brothers joined lumber baron William C. Yawkey in forming the Western Knitting Mills in 1891. Five years later, the Chapmans decided to bring their company to Rochester, and built a new factory at Fourth and Water streets. Both men then moved to Rochester and built homes that were, for their time and place, somewhat lavish. 

Charles Chapman built his Albert Kahn-designed home on North Main Street, just south of the corner of Romeo Road. (The estate, which he named “Oak Bluff,” was a prominent feature of the town until it was demolished in 1968.) William Chapman built an Italian Renaissance-inspired residence at 311 Walnut Street, which still stands today and is now known as the Chapman House restaurant. 

The Western Knitting Mills became a large and prosperous concern after the Chapman brothers moved the company to Rochester. By 1908, newspapers described it as the second-largest maker of yarns and mittens in the United States, and it provided employment for hundreds of people. The mill that the Chapmans built is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Photo of the front entrance of the Rochester Mills Beer Company

Rochester Mills Beer Company is now in the Western Knitting Mills building

As Rochester approached the turn of the 20th century, the Western Knitting Mills, Detroit Sugar Company and the interurban lines all combined to draw many new workers into the community. The rapid population increase caused a critical housing shortage. The Rochester Era noted that housing was difficult to find, and homes that had previously rented for $6 a month were now commanding the unheard-of price of $10 a month. 

In 1899, William Chapman responded to the demand for housing by venturing into real estate development. He platted some property on the west side of the village, lying north of Fifth Street (now University Drive). There he created the W. C. Chapman Addition and laid out a street that he named Ludlow in honor of his hometown of Ludlow, Vermont. Even after moving to Detroit and later making their permanent home in Rochester, the Chapmans retained their connections to family and friends in Ludlow and visited there regularly. Therefore, it is that Ludlow Street – named after the other hometown of his heart – rather than a “Chapman Street” honors the memory of William Chapman in Rochester. 

However, two other streets in Rochester carry the Chapman brothers’ first names, rather than their surname. When Charles Chapman’s son, Frank, subdivided part of his father’s Oak Bluff estate on North Main in 1948, he named the streets in the subdivision Charles and William in honor of his father and uncle. 

In addition to helping to run the Western Knitting Mills for 34 years, William Chapman took a keen interest in community affairs and served three terms as President of the Village of Rochester. He died at his home on Walnut Street on May 20, 1946, at the age of 80. 

Photo of the Barney / Champman grave monument

Chapman Grave Monument in Ludlow, Vermont

Monuments to the Chapman brothers and their spouses are not found in Mount Avon Cemetery. While both brothers lived in Rochester for the remainder of their lives, they were buried in Ludlow, Vermont, with earlier generations of their family.

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. Paula Porter says:

    And the Yawkey-Chapman Subdivision which is comprised of Childress Ave & the now called Cloverport Ave can be found on the West side of Rochester Rd at the bottom of the South Hill and contained a few houses for the African-Am workers at the Knitting Mill to reside in is THE OLDEST PLATTED SUB in Oakland Co! ONE of the original houses remains: 85 Childress, home of Dannette & Scott Cagnet & daughters.

  2. Ellen Witz says:

    What a fun read. I shared the article with my father via email whose family has been here 100+ years. My Mom reminded me that my Grandmother, Frieda Lenz, worked for the Chapman’s at a Detroit Home they owned, possibly on Boston Blvd, as a housekeeper back in the early to mid 1930’s. My Grandmother took a trip to Rochester with them to check on the progress of one of the new homes in the family. Unfortunately my Grandmother had to leave their employ to help take care of a family member, but they had a great relationship and wrote her a letter a year later asking her to return to their employ as they missed her dearly. Fun how a little article like this can trigger memories for everyone!

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