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. 

Painting of the house in winter with snow and pine trees

1886 Painting of the Newberry House – Courtesy of Penny Frank Reddish

Milo Prentice Newberry was part of one of the Rochester area’s pioneer families. He was born in New York State in 1825, and came with his family to Avon Township when he was 10 years old. The Newberry family arrived in the area in 1835, the same year that Avon Township was organized.  

Milo Newberry attended school in Rochester and married a local woman, Mary Jane Hoyt, in 1849. The couple began housekeeping near the area we know today as Avon & Livernois roads, where Newberry and his father operated a small sawmill on the Clinton River. In 1857, Newberry sold this property and bought ten acres overlooking the Clinton River in Section 14, closer to the village of Rochester.

Newberry in a suit with a long beard

Portrait of Milo Newberry – Courtesy of Rochester Hills Public Library

Newberry’s new property lay along what we know today as Bloomer Road. He built another sawmill and began to harvest and process the timber in the area. As the operator of a sawmill and the owner of timbered land, Milo Newberry provided essential building material for the settlers of Rochester and Avon Township and thus contributed to the community’s early growth and development. 

In 1863, Newberry began construction of a new house – built with timber harvested from his land along the Clinton River – for his growing family. He financed the house with money that he earned by making a yearlong trip to the Colorado gold fields with his friend, Samuel Harris. The house has an unusual Y-shaped floor plan that was Milo Newberry’s own design. Family history does not record the reason for this design, but it may have been Newberry’s way of capitalizing on the view from the top of the bluff that for decades was known as Newberry Hill. 

Milo Newberry also made his living as a cabinetmaker and operated a cabinet shop in the village of Rochester for a few years. He designed and handcrafted all of the interior woodwork and built-in cabinetry in his house. 

An old portrait in Black and White

Milo Prentice Newberry (seated), daughter Alice Beckwith Newberry Howell (standing, right), granddaughter Mabell Howell Frank (standing, left) and great-grandson Bruce K. Frank – 4-generation Portrait – Courtesy of Rochester Hills Public Library

Milo and Mary Jane Newberry had five children before Mary Jane’s death in 1876. Newberry and his second wife, Eliza Baldwin, married in 1877 and had two children together. All seven of Milo Newberry’s children were reared in the house, and Newberry himself lived there until his death in 1909 at the age of 83. 

After Milo Newberry’s death, his granddaughter, Mabell Howell Frank, and her family moved into the house. The Franks continued to farm the property, which had expanded to 149 acres from the original 10-acre parcel. They sold 11 acres of the farm to the Detroit Ski Club in 1925 for the construction of a ski jump on the property. Olympic-class competitors participated in ski jumping tournaments at the site for about a decade, until a storm destroyed the slide.

After the deaths of Mabell and Lucius “Bert” Frank, the family sold all but about five acres of the farm property. The Milo Newberry House and a small remnant of the farm property remain in the hands of the Newberry descendants to this day. Milo Newberry’s great-great granddaughter lovingly cares for the house and property. 

The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service, which administers the National Register of Historic Places, recognized the significance of the Milo Prentice Newberry House as the last remaining intact Victorian-era farmhouse within the boundaries of the City of Rochester. The National Register also acknowledges the property’s significance in contributing to the settlement and early development of Rochester. 

A small green and white house

Newberry House 2018

The Milo Prentice Newberry House is one of only four properties within the City of Rochester that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The others are the Rollin Sprague/Old Stone Store (Home Bakery building), the Western Knitting Mills (Rochester Mills Beer Company building), and the Rochester Elevator.

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. Lyn Sieffert says:

    Certainly looks like the building shrunk when compared to the painting!?

    • Deborah J. Larsen says:

      The house has not shrunk, but the 1886 painting is a bit deceiving. The artist’s view shows the west elevation of the house, in which the additions to the back of the house can be seen. The current photo shows the front/south elevation as it faces Bloomer Road, and the rear additions are not visible in that particular view. It is also true that the scale and proportions of the house are not accurately rendered in the painting.

  2. Molly Reddish says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of the house where I grew up. I am Penny Frank Reddish’s daughter, Molly Reddish and I really enjoyed how you told the story of this unique house. So thankful it has been loved and preserved for all this time.

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