Thomas Jefferson Jones House
The Thomas Jefferson Jones House is a two-story, side-gabled frame house with a center brick chimney. It features a center doorway flanked by 4/4 windows on either side and a two-story ell addition on the east side. The house was built circa 1868, and a kitchen addition was built in 1893. It is one of the oldest remaining historically residential buildings left on Walnut Street.
Backstory and Context
The preponderance of evidence indicates that the house at 302 Walnut, located on part of Lot 67 of the Original Plat of the Village of Rochester, was built in approximately 1868. The structure appears on the 1872 Atlas of Oakland County, Michigan, when it was the property of Thomas Jefferson Jones (1828-1913). Jones had purchased lots 66 and 67 from the estate of the late John F. Hamlin, and judging from the 1870 census, appears to be living on the property at that time. Tax assessment records for the property indicate that the taxable value of the property doubled between the 1868 and 1869 tax years, a signal that a house was likely built on the lot during that
time. Thomas J. Jones was a carpenter by trade, so it is reasonable to assume that he may have built the house himself.
In October 1873, the Rochester Era reported that Jones had traded away the property:
"We learn that Mr. T. J. Jones of this village has traded off his property on the corner of Walnut and Third streets for a farm, upon which he designs to remove soon, the party with whom he traded to occupy the premises here." This newspaper article seems to indicate that Jones was living in a house at the corner of Walnut and Third in late 1873; in the spring of 1874, Permilia Lambert, to whom the property had been traded by Jones, sold lots 66 & 67 to Henry Marshall Look. H. M. Look had been born in New York in 1804 and settled in Avon Township in 1851, after the death of his first wife. He remarried in 1852, and he and his second wife moved to the village of Rochester in 1874, purchasing lot 67 in that year. Look was a deacon of the Congregational church, and had served as probate judge of Oakland County under territorial government, as justice of the peace of Avon Township, and very briefly, as president of the Village of Rochester.
James Mackey Axford owned the house after H. M. Look, purchasing it from his estate in 1888. Axford built the kitchen addition to the house, according to this report in the Rochester Era of May 19, 1893:
"J. M. Axford is building a kitchen addition to his residence on corner Walnut and Third street."
From the 1920s to the late 1940s, the house was the residence of the George and Eva (Banghart) Gunn family.
In the early 1960s, the building housed the Rochester X-Ray Center, operated by Dr. Otis William Schorling (1924-1965), and the Rochester Clinical Laboratories, operated by J. D. Vowels. The clinic closed in 1964, and was followed by Strabismus Art Gallery in 1968. Since 1984, 302 Walnut has been the home of The Peppertree, a women's clothing boutique.
"We learn that Mr. T. J. Jones of this village has traded off his property...," Rochester Era, October 30, 1873, p.3.
"Death of T. J. Jones," Rochester Era, December 28, 1913, p.1.
Permilia Lambert to Henry M. Look, Lots 66 & 67, Original Plat of the Village of Rochester, April 11, 1874, Oakland County Record of Deeds, liber 115, p.17.
"H. M. Look, Sr., is repainting his house...," Rochester Era, June 26, 1885, p.1.
"H. M. Look, Sr., has removed the fence from around his premises...," Rochester Era, July 3, 1885, p.1.
Executor for Henry M. Look to Joseph M. Axford, Lots 66 & 67, Original Plat of the Village of Rochester, except portion of east end, November 1, 1888, Oakland County Record of Deeds, liber 143, p.620.
Joseph M. Axford to Harvey J. Taylor, Lot 67 (except east end), Original Plat of the Village of Rochester, June 29, 1903, Oakland County Record of Deeds, liber 206, p.626.
"J. M. Axford is building a kitchen addition to his residence...," Rochester Era, May 19, 1893, p.1.
Atlas of Oakland County, Michigan. New York: F.W. Beers, 1872, p.101.
"Eva Gunn, Old Time Village Resident Dies," Rochester Clarion, November 4, 1954, p.3.
"X-Ray Center Closes Doors," Rochester Clarion, February 6, 1964, p.11.
"Transform X-Ray clinic into Rochester's first art gallery," Rochester Clarion, August 1, 1968, p.2.
"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHCZ-97Z : 19 March 2020), Thomas J Jones, 1870.
Beautiful Rochester. W.A. Fox, 1897 [public domain]