The City of Rochester, Michigan has a rich historical heritage that began shortly before the village was formed, when the real growth in the area began with the formation of the Western Knitting Mill.
The property was first used as a milling operation back in 1844. However this original building was destroyed by a fire in 1867. A second, three-story building operated on the site until it too was destroyed by a fire in 1882.
Construction on the present building began in 1896. The local paper reported that the undertaking was a huge project that involved all the Villagers who donated stones and participated using their own shovels during the groundbreaking. Construction was reported to cost a whopping $10,000, a small fortune at the time.
The original building was U-shaped with the opening facing South where sheep were brought in for shearing. It was filled in sometime in the early 1900s.
In its heyday, the Western Knitting Mills building was home to one of the area’s largest employers, producing wool socks, gloves, and mittens (1896 – 1916); wool cloth (1916 – 27); and khaki gloves for World War I soldiers. At one time, its output of 100,000 dozen pairs of gloves annually made it one of the largest glove producers in the world. Knitting ceased at this site in 1939 and the Western Knitting Mills dissolved as a corporation.
From 1940 until 1998 the building served as home to several businesses, including McAleer Manufacturing during World War II when it was the largest producer of photo flash bombs in the United States. The building fell into near disrepair until Rewold Construction undertook restoration of the site in 1996.
The building has been anchored by the Rochester Mills Beer Co. since 1998. Founder Mike Plesz was instrumental in bringing one of the largest brew pubs in Michigan to the project early on. Today, the building has been completely reconditioned to its original design and is home to several businesses including Paint a Miracle Art Studio, General Sports & Entertainment and First American Title Insurance Company. And who knows, perhaps its best days are still to come for this historic building…