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"The Land of Healthful Delight": Highlights from the Rod and Susan Wilson collection of Rochester History

Living in Rochester

The Rod and Susan Wilson collection illustrates many aspects of life in the Rochester area in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Idle Hour Theater

The Idle Hour Theater opened on the west side of Main Street, just south of University Drive, in 1914. Advertised as “one of the finest moving picture houses in the state,” it could seat 400. A 1936 remodel expanded it to 500 and the theater was then renamed “Avon Theatre.” It operated until 1954 although after 1941 was relegated to a second role as another theater, the Hills, opened across the street.


The Ski Jump

Ski jumping was a big attraction in the Rochester area in the 1920s. The Rochester ski jump was inaugurated on February 1, 1926 and for years Hill held many competitions, even attracting  international participants and Olympic champions. 


It was the work of the Hall brothers who  came from Ishpeming, in the Upper Peninsula. They created the Detroit Ski Club and built the ski jump with wood and steel on land they purchased from the Newberry farm - known by locals as “Newberry Hill” - on Bloomer Road at the southeastern edge of Rochester.


In 1934, strong winds destroyed the facility. It was rebuilt, and again destroyed by a storm in the 1940s.