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Religious Heritage Tour focuses on former Walnut Street churches

July 17, 2013

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First Congregational Church was once located on Walnut in downtown Rochester.

ROCHESTER — Twice a year, the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm offers community church tours to give people a chance to tour various church buildings, learn the congregation’s history and discover its place in the greater Rochester community.

“We’ve done walking tours of downtown Rochester, we’ve done the cemeteries, we’ve done World War II weekend and this is just another one that sheds a new light and a new focus on our community,” said Patrick McKay, supervisor of interpretive services for the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm. “We’re just looking at all the pieces of the puzzle that pull our community together. Historically, churches have always done that, and I think they still do it today.”

On July 21, the museum will host “Sunday on Walnut Street,” a tour of churches that were once located along Walnut street, primarily between Second and Fourth streets, in downtown Rochester.

“Over the course of the last 200 years, there were at least 13 different churches that got their start in those two blocks. Some of them were only there for a couple years. Some of them were denominations that kind of came and went. There are buildings that have been used by several different denominations over the years, and now you have buildings that are serving other, quite different, purposes,” said museum volunteer and event organizer Deborah Remer.

The tour will start at 2 p.m. at the parking lot at Third and Walnut, the former location of St. Andrew Catholic Church. Over the course of the hour-and-a-half tour, guides will discuss various former church locations and existing buildings on Walnut Street.

“The tour this summer features all former buildings and locations where a lot of these churches got their starts, and then as the congregations grew and they needed more room, they moved out further,” Remer said.

A few people who attended the churches in the 1950s-1960s will share their memories of Sunday mornings in Rochester.

“This is a chance to really look at our community and realize that we were a very strong, faith-based community. The tour gives us a chance to walk down one street, and we are going to bring people who used to attend these churches and hear their stories about the ministers and the different things in their life that happened. … It’s just kind of a fun way of looking at local history,” McKay said.

Tickets for the tour are free for museum members, or $5 for non-members, and should be purchased online at www.rochester by July 19. For additional information, call the museum at (248) 656-4663.

The museum’s fall Religious Heritage Tour will be held Oct. 28.

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