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This excellent local example of an Eastlake Victorian dwelling was built for Dr. William Deats by local building contractor John Ross in 1881. Deats was a Rochester physician who married Harriet Sprague, daughter of Rochester physician and merchant Rollin Sprague. The Deats home was built on a lot on the Sprague Addition, a subdivision of the Rollin Sprague property that was one of the earliest additions to the original plat of Rochester.


  • Dr. William Deats House, south elevation, 2012
  • Dr. William Deats House, south elevation, 1897

Dr. William Deats and his wife, Harriet Ann "Hattie" Sprague Deats built this house on property in the Sprague Addition to the village of Rochester in the spring and summer of 1881. William Deats was a native of Lower Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania and established his medical practice in Rochester in 1878. In 1880, he married Harriet Sprague, the daughter of Dr. Rollin Sprague and his wife, Adeline Cooper Sprague. Rollin Sprague was a pioneer businessman and physician in the village of Rochester and built the stone store at the corner of Third and Main (now known as the Home Bakery), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hattie Deats purchased this property on the corner of Pine and Fifth Streets (now West University Drive) from her mother in April 1881. The property was part of the Sprague Addition, a subdivision of the family's homestead and one of the earliest additions to be made to the plat of Rochester.

In the spring of 1881, the Rochester Era noted that local building contractor John Ross had been hired to build the Deats house at a cost of $1,800. Ross was a native of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, as was Dr. Deats. Among the other Rochester buildings that were constructed by John Ross are the Rochester Elevator, the First Congregational Church, the Avon Township Hall, and the Universalist Society church.

William Deats decided to move his family and his medical practice back to his home in Pennsylvania in 1884. In 1885, Harriet Deats sold the house and property in Rochester to William Flumerfelt. Flumerfelt lived in the house until his death in 1906, and his widow, Elizabeth "Libbie", continued to live there until her own death in 1924. The house subsequently passed to Elizabeth Flumerfelt's nephew, Henry Wood Axford, who lived in the house for a couple of decades. Henry Axford, who was an attorney, and his wife Helen were prominent members of Rochester's social scene and hosted many parties, club meetings and dinners in their home at 302 W. Fifth (now W. University Drive).

After Axford sold the property, the house was used as a physician's office, the Denike import store, an art gallery and a beauty salon at various points in its history. In 2015, the property was owned by Andre and Connie Rewold Nadjarian.

William Deats died in his native Northampton County, Pennsylvania in 1891. The Rochester Era noted his passing with the following announcement:

"A letter received from Miss Addie Sprague, of Detroit, last Tuesday night, informs us of the death of Dr. William Deats, a former well-known and respected physician of this village, which sad event occurred Sunday, August 2d, at his late home in Martin's Creek, Pa. He was forty years of age and leaves one child -- a daughter of ten years. His wife, nee Hattie Sprague, died three years since at Easton, Pa. She was youngest daughter of Mrs. A. L. Sprague, of Detroit, and sister to R. C. and T. S. Sprague, both of that city. Dr. Deats was a man of education and culture and a writer of no ordinary ability. High-minded and true to his honest convictions, he was a good citizen, public spirited and full of generous promptings. His many old friends will be pained when they hear of his death."

Adeline L. Sprague to Hattie A. Deats, 13 April 1881, consideration $400, lots 8 and 9, Sprague Addition to the Village of Rochester, Oakland County Record of Deeds, liber 134, p.496.

"John Ross & Co. have just contracted to build...," Rochester Era, March 24,1881, p.3.

"The foundation for Dr. Deats' new residence is nearly complete," Rochester Era, May 26, 1881.

"Dr. Deats' residence was raised yesterday," Rochester Era, June 19, 1881, p.3.

"Dr. Deats' new residence will soon be ready for occupancy," Rochester Era, August 18, 1881.

"Mr. William Flumerfelt has purchased the fine residence of Dr. Deats on Fifth st., and will take possession the first of April," Rochester Era, February 20, 1885.

"W. C. Flumerfelt is building an addition to his residence on Fifth street, to be used as a bedroom," Rochester Era, October 21, 1887, p.1.

"A letter received from Miss Addie Sprague...[death of William Deats]," Rochester Era, August 7, 1891, p.1.

"Fifth Street Home Being Enlarged," Rochester Clarion, May 4, 1928, p.1.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:MS9K-HR4 : accessed 6 December 2015), William Flumarfelt, Avon township Rochester village, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing sheet 8A, family 176, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,735.

"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:MLRV-Z85 : accessed 6 December 2015), Libbie Flumfelt, Avon, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 117, sheet 6A, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,374,681.

"United States Census, 1920", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:MZQ5-Q64 : accessed 6 December 2015), Libbie Flumerfelt, Avon, Oakland, Michigan, ED 159, sheet 14A.

"United States Census, 1930", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:XQ1V-L8J : accessed 6 December 2015), Henry W Axford, ED 3, sheet 7A.

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org /ark:/61903/1:1:K4GB-MBC : accessed 6 December 2015), Henry W Axford, Rochester, Avon Township, Oakland, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 63-3, sheet 2A, family 25, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 1798.

"United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J49R-JSB : accessed 6 December 2015), Henry Wood Axford, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Deborah Larsen

Beautiful Rochester, 1897 [public domain]