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Your Royal Oak Stories

We're looking for longtime residents to help tell the story of Royal Oak. 

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Apr 12

The History of the Royal Oak Post Office

Posted on April 12, 2021 at 1:08 PM by Judy Davids

Post Office circa 1936
Above:  Photo from the Royal Oak Tribune dated August 31, 1936.


James Lockwood, the first postmaster serving the territory now known as Royal Oak, was appointed by John Quincy Adams on April 6, 1825. The rest as they say is history.

Lockwood lived in a log cabin on the site of the present Washington Square Plaza building.

From 1831 to 1841, the post office was moved to Chase's Corners at 13 Mile and Woodward, which was the center of the community in the pioneer days of Royal Oak Township.

With the coming of the railroad in 1838, the center of activity shifted again and the Postmaster Moses Johnson conducted the post office from his store at the northeast corner of Main Street and University. During the Civil War the post office was in a general store at Fifth and the railroad. This building was later moved to Main and First (now Main Street) and used as a milk house by William Hilzinger.

A little later, stagecoaches carried mail and passengers three times a week over a plank road from Royal Oak to Rochester. After a time, George Hickey began carrying mail three times a week on the Niles Road from Royal Oak to Troy Corners (Big Beaver and Rochester). Some people made hinged boxes for mail and nailed them to a fence and hired Hickey to bring their mail. This antedated Rural Free Delivery by forty years or more.

The post office was usually the center of attraction and men gathered at dusk after a game of horseshoes to tell tales and talk over the questions of local and national importance.

- Compiled by John A. Kuzemba, Royal Oak clerk, August 8, 2013

Read the complete history of the Royal Oak Post office.
Apr 04

Remembering Royal Oak General Hospital

Posted on April 4, 2021 at 4:24 PM by Judy Davids

Washington Square Building in 1928

Last Emergency  at Royal Oak General Hospital

Empty Cribs at Royal Oak General Hospital

Dr. Albert P Ohlmacher
Earlier we did a post on Royal Oak architect Frederick Madison. 

Madison more than any other architect shaped the skyline of Royal Oak in the 1920s and ’30s. The Washington Square Building, built in 1927 and located at Washington and Fourth, was Royal Oak's first "skyscraper" at six stories.

A couple of people came forward after we did the story on Madison and said they were born at Royal Oak General Hospital, which was on the fourth floor of the Washington Square Building. Before that it was known as Royal Oak Private Hospital, but more on that later.

Here’s what we could find out about Royal Oak General Hospital:

• The City of Royal Oak controlled Royal Oak General Hospital for 12 years. It took the hospital under its wing on Oct. 15, 1942.
• The first baby born was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Orville Mills of Berkley, on Dec. 30. 1942.
• The 24-bed hospital closed at noon on Dec. 27, 1954 giving way to the 200-bed William Beaumont Hospital, which open in January of 1955.
• The last baby at the hospital was born on Dec. 14 to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Rembeoski of Hazel Park.
• The last three emergency patients were treated on Dec. 22, 1954 – two for cuts on the head and one for an eye injury.
• More than 80 percent of all emergency cases were brought to the hospital by the Royal Oak Police.
• The hospital was staffed by 55 employees. Many went on to work at the William Beaumont Hospital -- in fact so many, that city commission at the time determined it would be impossible to carry on the service of the Royal Oak General Hospital and voted to close it on Oct. 25, 1954.
• Practically all the medical and surgical equipment and supplies were transferred to the William Beaumont Hospital. The management of the William Beaumont Hospital agreed to remove all of equipment from the Royal Oak General Hospital on December 23 and 24, 1954.  
• On Dec. 31, 1954 the fourth floor was cleared and returned to the owners of the Washington Square Building.

Before it was Royal Oak General Hospital it was Royal Oak Private Hospital.

• Royal Oak Private Hospital was founded by Dr. Albert P. Ohlmacher in 1930. He was 33 years old and lived on Vinsetta Blvd with his Frances, four children and a Danish servant. 
• Ohmacher was born in Ohio and attended the University of Michigan circa 1922.
• In 1942, Ohlmacher was enlisted into the US Army. Here’s what Ancestry.com says about what is known as the “old man’s registration.” 

‘The U.S. officially entered World War II on 8 December 1941 following an attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Just about a year before that, in October 1940, President Roosevelt had signed into law the first peacetime selective service draft in U.S. history, due to rising world conflicts. After the U.S. entered WWII a new selective service act required that all men between ages 18 and 65 register for the draft. Between November 1940 and October 1946, over 10 million American men were registered. The Fourth Registration, often referred to as the "old man's registration", was conducted on 27 April 1942 and registered men who born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897 - men who were between 45 and 64 years old - and who were not already in the military. (Ohlmacher was born on Jan. 10, 1897.)

• On Oct. 5, 1942, with Ohlmacher headed off to the Army, members of the Royal Oak Women’s Club urgently requested of the city commission that the city take over the management of his private hospital. They wrote, “Owing to the fact that the War Department is taking many of our Royal Oak practicing physicians and that the Detroit hospitals are overcrowded and also handicapped by the lack of personnel, we feel that such a step is very necessary to the well-being of the residents of our city.” Mayor Fletcher Renton appointed Commissioners Clawson, Horn and Hayward to a committee to investigate taking over the hospital and to make provision for a clearance hospital in connection with the Civil Defense Program.
• On Oct. 14, 1942 the city entered into a contract with Ohlmacher to purchase the hospital and its inventory for $8,800. The hospital then closed tor alterations and reopened in December, 1942.
• Ohlmacher died on July 11, 1979 in De Soto, Florida. He was 82.

Sources: Tribune Archive, city commission minutes, US Census data and Ancestry.com.

Apr 04

Happy Birthday, Frederick D. Madison

Posted on April 4, 2021 at 2:24 PM by Judy Davids

Madison architecture on Washington
The Royal Oak Savings Bank at Main and Fourth, circa 1920
The Royal Oak post office opened in 1936
Royal Oak High School Circa 1930

 Born 133 years ago, on April 2, 1888, Madison changed the face of a young Royal Oak in the 1920 and ‘30s. 

Madison’s buildings include the six-story Washington Square Building, the Conga Building, which was home to Montgomery Ward for more than three decades, Royal Oak High School (now Royal Oak Middle School), the First United Methodist Church, the Royal Oak Savings Bank, the Royal Oak Post Office, the Washington and Baldwin Theatres and countless schools, office, and store buildings throughout the city.

His 40-year plus career began in 1916 when he opened his first architectural office in Royal Oak. After World War II, the Royal Oak School District and Oakland County retained his services to design long-range postwar construction projects.
A long-time Woodcrest Drive resident, Madison died at the former Alexander Convalescent Home on Fourth Street in 1969. He was 81 years old. He is buried at Royal Oak Cemetery.