Rochester’s first doctor, first newspaper, and more have filled the brick building at the corner on 330 Broadway.
The year was 1857, Rochester was a three-year old cluster of buildings on an intersection of two roads into the Minnesota Territory, and Dr. Lewis Halsey Kelley didn’t know it, but his wife was dying.
Her name was Angeline, and Dr. Kelley—very likely the first surgeon in Rochester, not to mention the builder of its first brick building and the son of a private in the Virginia Militia—was moving his entire family to Minnesota in what seemed like his last best hope of saving the mother of their seven children.
The couple had loaded Kelleys ranging from eight (little Angeline) to 19 (Caroline) onto a stagecoach, then pulled away from a small home at 80 West South Street, in Painesville, Ohio. Back east, the family had prospered in a three-bedroom wood frame house in the heart of the bustling village, a township of 2,500 marked by Lake Erie on the west and a winding riverfront on the east.
The Kelleys moved into Minnesota with a piano in tow, an impractical addition that would have signaled his wealth and education at the Medical College of Geneva, New York. Dr. Kelley was 49, Angeline was 41 and suffering from consumption.
Today we know the illness as tuberculosis, a treatable bacterial infection of the lungs. Back then, there were no antibiotics and the white plague (it left you emaciated and pale) was treated with rest and fresh air—if you had the means.
In 1857, that place was the Minnesota Territory, cheap land being settled at a rapid clip—one that would see its non-native population climb from less than 5,000 to 170,000 over the next ten years—and its wilderness roadways were clogged with wagons.
Traveling from Painesville through Galena by way of Dubuque, Carimona, and Chatfield, the Kelleys began buying bricks at the intersection where a north-going Dubuque Trial met a west-traveling trail out of Winona.
They stopped a block from the river—it would have felt like their small home back in Painesville—and likely would have bunked with George Head, the man who plotted Broadway and who was then a prosperous if overextended land speculator running an inn on the south side of Fourth St. at Broadway
Angeline never got to see 330 Broadway, however—a two-story structure on the northeast corner of Broadway and (then College St.), and a building that would both precede and outlast New York’s famed Penn Station. She died three weeks after arriving on the prairie and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
And this is how the town’s first doctor came to Rochester.
An undated photo shows a man with light eyes, dark eyebrows, receding, messy hair with long sideburns. An obituary tells us that Dr. Kelley cut a stout figure in his day, pushing nearly 300 pounds in his prime. The widower channeled his grief into the new building, spending $5,000 on bricks baked from a kiln on the flats east of town, stones hauled by oxcart over a ford as if erecting the pyramids of Giza.
When it was finished the next year, the family moved into the back of the only brick building in town, a frontier enclave in which every other structure was made entirely of wood. Everything up and down the street burned down, eventually, more than once. Not the building of brick. In the beginning, Dr. Kelley rented the front to a dry goods store called Andrews Dry Goods, the basement to a saloon (Sam Blackson’s Saloon), and the upstairs to a pair of brothers printing a newspaper.
The medicine man did keep an office in front—a notice touting his services declared “Ho Ye Afflicted!”—and he took patients on the corner from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, providing counsel during a time in which the life expectancy was 57. Wolves could be heard howling on the riverbank, and one undated photo of Broadway shows herds of cattle and oxcarts. The animals look hungry and worn, and the buildings have porches suitable for gunmen to tumble from at the start of a spaghetti western.
Caroline played the piano—probably songs by Stephen Foster (“Camptown Races,” “Oh Susanna”), or if her skill level was high, Frederick Chopin—another victim of consumption. Natives passing through the valley would walk into George Head’s Inn and ask for mutton, but at Dr. Kelley’s window, they would stand in delight at the sound of the music machine—Caroline playing piano.
Dr. Kelley’s healing services would have been primitive. Medicine was an herbal practice at the time, utilizing poultices, tonics, and aromatic salves. Surgery before anesthesia and sterilization was brief, superficial, often involved straps, and was rarely successful. It was enough to send a person into newspapering.
Conveniently, the pair of brothers upstairs and their title–the Rochester City Post—must have inspired Dr. Kelley. In 1860 he bought the Rochester City News, renamed it the Rochester Republican, moved to Owatonna and remarried (an Ardelia Betts). She was 25. He was 52.
Dr. Kelley was a supporter of the Union Army. In August of 1862, he printed a notice “to all such wives and children (of soldiers fighting the Civil War) and residing in this city and requiring medical attendance,” pledging free medical care. To wives and children living in the larger county, he discounted services by half. “This is my way,” he wrote, “of supporting the Union in this war.”
330 Broadway lived on. It had two windows on its upstairs and an awning prior to the replacement in 1906 of its original facing. The streets of Rochester were said to have been plotted from a spike driven in the southwest corner of its basement, which sounds like the sort of thing you would do in a saloon. But if such a spike still exists, current owner (lawyer Tom Patterson) doesn’t know about it.
His tour is gracious and sobering. While you can still see the outlines of a stairway into what would have been a Civil War-era drinking grotto, the walls below the Kelley building are now in a state of crystalline degeneration, a transmogrification of settler period mortar that feels like spun sugar to the touch. Sidewalk traffic steps across a steel plate hiding a coal chute into the basement, now a storage area where beams can be scraped with your fingernails in places.
A century-plus of changes
Kelley’s building changed hands over the years, becoming Upman & Poole Drugs in 1867, then an Anderson’s Drug Store. It survived the 1883 tornado, then entered the hands of one John Powderly, a man who sold boots and shoes until 1930. A business known as Quality Print Shop settled in during the Great Depression years and then the wartime, selling office supplies and typewriters.
A shop owner named Earl Huey took over 1958, selling cigars, magazines, and running a soda fountain for the next three decades. A couple named Don and Ginny Kruger owned the building in 1984, followed by a pair of young men who briefly opened a teen center. It was rebuilt by the current Judge Kevin Lund and his father Anthony Lund in 1993, became Lund & Patterson, then Patterson, Ostrem & Swisher, and now Patterson Dahlberg Injury Lawyers.
The apartments upstairs have been converted into law offices. A series of furnaces and highly creative ductwork have transformed the 157 year old building into a sleek law firm with exposed brick walls and at least one very small doorway. We still have it to savor and reflect, in other words—though only by virtue, luck and death.