Backstory and Context
Significant Persons: Griggs, Charles K.; Griggs, Albert G.
Statement of Significance:
The Griggs Brothers/Rochester Elevator Company Grain Elevator is significant for its role in the emergence of the village of Rochester, Michigan as a center of agricultural commerce in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The elevator was built in 1880, following the arrival of two railroad lines in Rochester in 1872 and 1879, respectively. It provided a crucial transportation mechanism for shipment of crops and allowed farmers to store their grain until it could be shipped to market at a time when it would command the most advantageous price. The grain elevator was responsible for positioning Rochester as an agricultural marketplace within Oakland County, which led the state of Michigan in wheat production at that time.
The building at 303 East University Drive, Rochester, Oakland County, Michigan,known as the Rochester Elevator Company was built for service as a grain elevator by Charles K. Griggs in 1880. It was the second of three elevators built in the village of Rochester to ship crops to market after the railroad lines entered the town, and is the only survivor, within the city limits, of Rochester's agricultural heritage.
In the fall of 1880, the Rochester Era announced with a bold headline and undisguised enthusiasm that Charles Griggs had broken ground for a new wheat elevator on the D. & B.C. Railroad tracks on the north side of the village. The article described the building's size as 24x40 feet and 20 feet high, and reported that the contract for its construction had been awarded to John Ross & Co. John Ross (1811-1893) was a local contractor who had also built, in 1854, the building on the northwest corner of Third and Walnut streets which became the home of the First Congregational Church of Rochester. Seven weeks later, the Era reported that the Griggs elevator was nearly complete, and attributed the building's design to Charles K. Griggs himself. The elevator was described as having seven wheat bins, four of which faced the railroad tracks, and an undocumented number of other bins for various agricultural commodities.
On March 1, 1909, a group of Rochester investors filed articles of incorporation as the Rochester Elevator Company and issued $10,000 in shares to capitalize the new firm. At this time, the elevator was expanded at both ends and took on its current configuration, with a three-story gambrel roofed section facing University Drive and a two-story section added to the south end of the building. The stock company lasted a only a short time, and by 1913, ownership of the business had passed to Frank Dewey Shoup. In 1922, the business became known as the Rochester Farmer's Elevator, and in 1933, it was purchased by Lewis Cass Crissman of Rochester. Crissman and his son, L. Keith Crissman, ran the elevator until 1952, when it was sold to George Carey and Doyle Wilson. Carey and Wilson, in turn, sold the elevator to J. Wesley Smith and Edward Moulis in 1956. Moulis eventually sold out his share to J. Wesley Smith and his son, Lawrence Smith. As of 2011, the Smith family has operated the Rochester Elevator Company for over half a century, the longest tenure of any owner of the business since its founding in 1880.
1.“A New Wheat Elevator,” Rochester Era, November 4, 1880.
2.“The New Elevator,” Rochester Era, December 23, 1880.
3.“Make a Market,” Rochester Era, June 23, 1899.
4.Rochester Era, November 30, 1900.
5. Sanborn Map Company, Rochester, Michigan [map] (New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1908).
6. Rochester Era, May 28, 1909.
7. National Grain Journal, 6:3 (February 1922) p. 52.
8. “City Company Changes Name: Three New Partners Enter Business,” Rochester Clarion, May 16, 1930.
9. L. Keith Crissman, (741 Apple Hill Lane, Avon Township, Michigan), interview with Wendy Lodwick, 09 December 1979; Rochester Hills Public Library, Rochester, Michigan, accessed at www.oaklandcountyhistory.org, 16 August 2009.