How The Old Stone Store became The Home Bakery

The Old Stone Store: A Remnant of Rochester’s Pioneer Era

By Deborah J. Larsen

Few Rochester residents remember a time when the venerable stone store at the corner of Third and Main streets was not a bakery. History reveals, however, that the iconic building has served a wide variety of tenants in its 167 years.

Rochester’s oldest commercial structure, known to us as the Home Bakery building, was called “The Old Stone Store” by generations of earlier residents. It was built in 1849 for Rollin Sprague, a physician who came to Rochester from East Bloomfield, New York about 1830. He was an early civic leader of the community, serving as postmaster, justice of the peace, and member of the state legislature.

The Old Stone Store from 1877 - photo courtesy of the Janet and Melanie Swords Family Archive

The Old Stone Store from 1877 – photo courtesy of the Janet and Melanie Swords Family Archive

Sprague entrusted the construction of his store to Thomas Anscomb, an English-born stonemason living in nearby Troy Township. According to a 1923 memoir of the Sprague family, Anscomb used quicklime and stones gathered from the family farm on South Hill to lay up the coursed cobblestone walls of the building. The technique was little known in Michigan and Rochester’s stone store is one of only a handful of examples in the state. It is also one of only three buildings in the city of Rochester listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Until his death in 1872, Sprague ran The Old Stone Store as a general store and grocery. His widow, Adaline, continued the business until about 1875, when she sold it to partners Barnes & Goodison. The general store operation lasted until around 1904 and then gave way to a variety of businesses including a poolroom, the Haybell & O’Brien Chevrolet dealership, a Hudson-Essex dealership, a cafe, and the Oakland Dairy store.

In 1947, partners Harry Schaefer and Donald Bennett opened the Scha-Ben bakery in the building. By 1954, the business had become known as The Home Bakery, and the name has been retained through several changes of ownership since then.

The Home Bakery in 2016 - photo by Deborah J. Larsen

The Home Bakery in 2016 – photo by Deborah J. Larsen

A renovation undertaken in 1899 accounts for the date that now appears at the top of the building. At that time, it was crowned with the ornate cornice and other Victorian details that it wears today. The revised storefront remained until the early 1960s, when it was covered by a faux-Colonial front. In 1995, the building’s owners restored its 1899 Victorian appearance.

While the 1899 alterations were underway, workers attempting to deepen the cellar beneath the building were surprised when their shovels uncovered two human skeletons. The remains were presumed to be those of an indigenous people, because an early county history had identified the store’s location as the site of a Native American burial ground. Further evidence of this claim was found during the rebuilding of Main Street in 2012, when Native American remains were unearthed on the southeast corner of Third and Main, just a few yards from the Home Bakery building.

Despite many changes to the building in 167 years, the observant eye can still view the stone store the way Rollin Sprague saw it in 1849, by looking at the back of the building where the Greek Revival gable is still visible on the store’s east elevation.

Remembering Rochester

More information about downtown Rochester’s historic buildings is available in Deborah Larsen’s book Remembering Rochester: Main Street Stories, available at Lytle Pharmacy or from the Rochester Avon Historical Society’s online store. All proceeds from sales of the book benefit the Rochester Avon Historical Society and its programs.

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen

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.

 

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. Bradley T. Banres says:

    Which of the Barnes family are you referring to?

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