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An English cottage in Rochester

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Look familiar? Look again. When this photo (above) was taken in 1950, the view from what we know as the Plummer House, then called Quarry Hill, was a farmland vista.

The house nestled in the trees to the lower right has its own story.

While their main residence went up room by room in the 1920s, Dr. Henry Plummer and wife, Daisy, tented on a stone slab on Quarry Hill where the cottage now stands.

Original access to the mansion was from 11th Street Southwest, a section of old Salem Road, a branch of the Dubuque Trail. The construction project included an Tudor-style building at the entrance to the property. It served as a pump house, with pipes running through a tunnel and soft limestone caves to a water tower on the hill above it. It was later enlarged to house Adolph Peterson, who was caretaker-gardener from 1937 to 1945.

The tunnel remains a bit of a mystery. According to his daughter, Gertrude, Henry Plummer wanted to raise mushrooms in the tunnel, but never found the time. Some believe the cave portion predated the house and was used to store beer for the Old Centennial, an early Rochester tavern that was nearby. The main passageway carved from the cave is about 220 feet long, with a sidewalk up the middle and a lighted ceiling. It is 18 feet wide and more than 8 feet high. Shorter bisecting tunnels may have been used to store wine and vegetables.


After Henry Plummer’s death, a wide range of renters occupied the cottage. The caves, remnants of two former access drives up to "the big house" and other elements of the property have aroused curiosity and lent an air of mystery to the area for years.

With the death of Henry Plummer and Daisy’s eventual move to Madonna Towers, the Plummer houses were donated to the Rochester Art Center and later reverted to the city. The caretaker’s cottage had its first private owner, since the Plummers, in 1972 and continues life today as a private residence, complete with beautiful gardens, at right. Apache Mall and a residential neighborhood now stand where George Baihly’s fields prospered.

Next week: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Annie-I-Over

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