West Third and Main St.

Downtown Rochester

West Third and Main St.

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County


Col. Dennis H. Williams came to Rochester in 1868 after serving in the Civil War. He partnered with J. Franklin VanDooser in an agricultural machinery business and together they constructed a new building on the corner of West Third and Main Streets. The Colonel’s son, Frank, began working with his father and soon bought out VanDooser’s shares.

Col. Williams had a zest for public life. He was elected Rochester’s mayor three times, served on the school board and on many city commissions.

Unlike his father, Frank preferred a quieter life. He married Francis Jandro of Rochester and they had one daughter, also named Francis. Shortly after the birth, Mrs. Williams died. Frank was heartbroken. Their daughter contracted tuberculosis at the age of 15 and passed before her 20th birthday. Frank retired from business and withdrew from the public.

In the summer of 1931, Will Klee and Frank were playing checkers in Klee’s grocery store when they heard the sound of screeching tires. Upon investigation, they found that a boy had almost been hit by a car while playing in the street.

Frank commented there should be more playgrounds so kids don’t need to play in the street. A passerby said, “Why don’t you do something about it? You have property.”

Frank replied, “I will.”

Frank Williams died May 18, 1932. His obituary was three paragraphs on page five of the paper. Two days later, headlines read that Williams bequeathed $50,000 in property to the city to build and supply new playgrounds.

History Center of Olmsted County

This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Rochester


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