The Van Hoosen Farm dates back to 1823 when Lemuel Taylor, his wife Sarah, and nine children purchased 160 acres of land in Avon Township, now known as The City of Rochester Hills. When Lemuel's granddaughter, Sarah Ann, married Joshua Van Hoosen in 1854, most of the Taylor farm property was purchased by Joshua and productively farmed until Joshua died in 1894.
Joshua's widow, Sarah, leased the farm to local farmers until Dr. Sarah Van Hoosen Jones, granddaughter of Joshua Van Hoosen and great-great granddaughter of Lemuel Taylor, assumed operation of the farm. After receiving her Ph.D. in animal genetics in 1921, Sarah began operating the farm under scientific management.
The Van Hoosen Farm operation consisted of four phases: cattle herd, poultry, milk production and tillable land for crops. Although Dr. Jones started her farm operation by raising one thousand single-comb, white leghorn chickens, she devoted most of her efforts to the dairy operation. Through Sarah's efforts, the original herd of fifty Holstein dairy cows increased until it numbered two hundred in 1944. Every year between 1929 and the 1940s, the Van Hoosen Farm exhibited cattle and won ribbons at stock shows, including the Michigan State Fair, the Wisconsin and Illinois State Fairs, and the Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. Van Hoosen cattle became desired throughout the world, and part of Sarah's prized stock was sold to the governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Argentina for breeding programs.
The Van Hoosen Farm was composed of a number of buildings, including a 101 foot long barn constructed in 1874, an ice house built in 1890, a milk house built in 1911, silos constructed in 1912, a milking barn erected in 1914, an equipment barn built in 1925, and a dairy barn, calf barn and bull barn, all erected in 1927. A number of corncribs, tool cribs and chicken coops were also constructed. Of these buildings, the milk house, dairy barn, calf barn and bull barn remain today. The largest building remaining, the dairy barn, was constructed by Dr. Jones as a state-of-the-art dairy building originally designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Jones retired from farming in 1952, and management of the farm was turned over to long-time farm manager Morris Place. After the deaths of both Dr. Jones and Mr. Place, the last of the farming operations ended. The last of the prized herd was sold in September 1977.
When Dr. Jones died in 1972, the barns and surrounding property were donated to Michigan State University. While Michigan State University donated the Van Hoosen Farmhouse and three acres to Avon Township (Rochester Hills), they sold the barns and surrounding acreage to a private developer. In 1989, however, The City of Rochester Hills acquired the Van Hoosen Farm buildings and 13 surrounding acres.
Most of the large farms in Rochester Hills have disappeared and that is precisely why the City of Rochester Hills is anxious to safeguard this area and the Van Hoosen Farm. The intent is to preserve this pocket of rural America in a rapidly growing suburban area.
The Van Hoosen Dairy Barn has been adaptively reused as a year round cultural, educational, and recreational facility. Visitors can enjoy permanent exhibits on the history of our local community, tour exhibits, interactive exhibits, Museum store, conference room, temporary exhibits, and more!
The Van Hoosen Dairy Barn is open for drop in tours on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Group tours and other times are available by appointment.