I visited the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm yesterday, enjoying the beautiful grounds before viewing the “Lost Rochester” exhibit. The landscaping behind the main house is lovely: flowers, benches in secluded areas, a small bridge, and a couple of streams. I imagine that if I had waited a couple of weeks for all the leaves to turn, I would have found the grounds even more breath-taking.
The “Lost Rochester” exhibit focuses on aspects of historical Rochester that no longer exist in modern day Rochester. For example, have you ever heard of the Rochester Ski Jump/Slide, built in the 1920s? According to this article, the ski jump lured skiers from across the country because of its height and the scenic view from the top. I know what you’re wondering: What happened to it? The Rochester Ski Jump/Slide was destroyed by a tornado in 1934.
Until I visited the exhibit, I had no idea that the Detroit United Railway once transported people living in or near Rochester to Detroit, mainly so that they could shop. The railroad was active from 1899 until 1931, by which time Rochester grew large enough that it could provide its citizens with all the shopping they needed.
Besides learning about Rochester past, my visit also helped me understand some of the oral histories I’ve listened to in the ROHA database. The Woodward School, for instance, is mentioned multiple times in multiple oral histories, but at the exhibit I actually got to see a picture of the structure as it used to be. (These days it’s the OPC Senior Center.) I picked up a free Vintage Views newspaper and realized that it’s a paper written by, for, and about seniors. One things that’s struck me about Rochester is its dedication to its seniors, from the Senior Center to the designated-for-seniors parking spots available at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.
On the way home, I stopped by the Yates Cider Mill and was amazed at the sense of community there, too. There’s something about Rochester that begs for the kind of thing that ROHA is: Somewhere that remembers the city’s past with an eye on its future. I’ve never experienced anything like it.