Our History

Rochester was settled in 1817 and drew pioneers because of its location in the Clinton River Valley – strategically located between the Clinton River and Paint Creek and Stoney Creek all of which powered mills to cut timber, grind grain, card wool, and press apples into cider.Main Street 1910

The village of Rochester grew because it was a market center located along obvious transportation routes.

The citizens of the Rochester area contributed to the development of planked roads connecting Detroit, Pontiac, Romeo, and Royal Oak, which eased farmers’ access to those markets, and brought business to the villages and farms, as well as desirable manufactured goods.

Later, Rochester citizens bought $50,000 in railroad stocks to ensure that rail lines ran through Rochester. These decisions assured Rochester’s future as a thriving rural market town by shipping local produce and passengers out and bringing new products and business in.  By 1907 there were 8 passenger and 25 freight trains stopping in Rochester every day.

For details about the History of downtown Rochester and the buildings and people that have shaped this community, visit the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

The Museum hosts ‘A Lively Town: The History of the Greater Rochester Area 1817-1952’. This permanent exhibit housed in the adaptively reused 1927 Van Hoosen Dairy Barn discusses such fascinating topics as why oysters were a big craze in Rochester in the 1870s, why a local business gave away free watermelon to children, why the largest factory in Rochester’s history stood for less than 7 years, and how the Rochester area helped to defeat one of the world’s most deadly diseases.

The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm is open year-round Wednesdays through Saturdays from 1-4 pm.  For more information please visit the Museum’s Web site or call 248.656.4663.

Did you know?

  • The oldest building in downtown is the Rollin Sprague building, built in 1849 – today it houses The Home Bakery.
  • The most significant building in downtown Rochester is the Western Knitting Mills building that employed hundreds of workers, required the building of dormitories for female workers, established St. Andrews Catholic Church, and was the largest producer of photo flash bombs in the United States during World War II.
  • Chapman Mill Pond was a dominant feature in the historic landscape.  When the pond drained during massive flooding in 1948 the pond was filled in and now houses the Post Office, the Rochester Hills Public Library, Sunrise Assisted Living and the Royal Park Hotel.