Rochester Masonic Block
The Rochester Masonic Block was designed in 1899 by well-known Pontiac architect Edward R. Prall. It is a two-story, flat-roofed, Romanesque Revival style building of light tan rock-faced sandstone trimmed in limestone and light brick. The flanking side and rear facades are brick with sandstone trim. The second story features segmentally arched and round arch windows accented by cartouches, and is delineated by round, rock-faced sandstone piers. The words "Masonic Temple" and "1899" appear in stenciled stonework at the parapet.
Backstory and Context
Built in 1899-1900, the Masonic Block was designed by Pontiac architect Edward R. Prall. The Rochester Building Association raised funds for the project. Among its leaders were William Clark Chapman, general manager of Western Knitting Mills and twentieth village president; Enos R. Mathews, ninth village president and former Avon Township supervisor; and Harvey J. Taylor, a local hardware dealer and farmer. The building's earliest tenants included the Rochester Savings Bank, the Rollins & Dever clothing store, and the Rochester lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons.
The Rochester Era reported on Friday, June 30, 1899: "Ground was broken for the new masonic temple last Tuesday afternoon. The earth taken from the excavation will be used as filling at the powerhouse site." On July 28, 1899, the newspaper reported: "The floor joists of the masonic temple have been laid and brick is being delivered on the ground, and brick-laying has already begun."
Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reported on July 9: "Architect E. R. Prall, of Pontiac, has plans for a three-story brick store and office building to be erected on Saginaw street, by C. H. Halsey. The same architect has made plans for a block of brick stores, with temple overhead, for the Masonic fraternity of Rochester."
On April 6, 1900, the Rochester Era reported that the Rochester Building Association was planning to expand the Masonic block on the east: "Congressman Sam W. Smith has secured a five-year contract from the government for a new post office in Rochester and the Rochester Building Association will build an addition to the masonic temple on the east." The post office occupied quarters on the Fourth Street side of the Masonic Block in July 1900 and remained there until 1937, when a new post office building was built on West Fourth. The Era reported on July 13, 1900: "Postmaster Hayes will remove to his new and commodious quarters in the masonic block next Sunday, and certainly then Rochester can boast of as fine a postoffice as any town of its size in Michigan."
After the bank departed the building in the spring of 1925 to move across the street to a new building at 339 S. Main, the Masonic Block was leased by the Kroger grocery chain, which opened its Rochester store there on April 10, 1925.
The Rochester Masonic Block was listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Sites in 1987 and features a Michigan Historical Marker on the south wall.
Rochester Era, June 30, 1899, p.1.
"Budget From the Architects," Detroit Free Press, July 9, 1899, p.25.
Rochester Era, July 28, 1899, p.1.
"An Auspicious Occasion, Dedication of the New Masonic Temple of the Rochester Craft," Rochester Era, February 23, 1900, p.5.
"Congressman Sam W. Smith has secured a five-year contract...," Rochester Era, April 6, 1900, p.8.
"Postmaster Hayes will remove to his new and commodious quarters...," Rochester Era, July 13, 1900, p.1.
Display advertisement in the Rochester Clarion, April 10, 1925, p.6, to wit: "Kroger's New Store Opens Friday, April 10, '25."
"Rochester Boasts Finest Kroger Store," Rochester Clarion, July 13, 1934, p.1.
Rochester: A Sketch of One of the Best Towns on the Map, 1907 [public domain]