On the Road – The history and preservation of the Plummer House gardens

Emily Dick is in nursing school. She is spending her second summer working in the Plummer House gardens as a seasonal grounds attendant. Emily says the job is, "Therapeutic. It never gets old. Its a nice break from the school year and I look forward to working here every single day."

Emily is one of three Rochester Park and Rec employees mowing and weeding all summer long.  Ben Anderson is the crew chief and he’s on the property year-round. "We’re out here even in January when its zero degrees and snowing and the wind is blowing [and in conditions] up to 100 degrees in the summer. That’s part of the reason I like this job. I’m outside all year long." 

The team is working at preserving a property with deep Rochester roots. The Plummer House was the residence of Dr. Henry Plummer, his wife Daisy and their two children. Construction on the mansion got underway in 1917. It took seven years to complete. 

The house was originally called Quarry Hill. About 25 percent of the stone on the outside of the house was harvested right in the lower garden. 

Les Cookman and his wife Sandy are caretakers of the property. Les says the grounds today are very similar to what they were like when the Plummer family lived here. Les says the gardens were Henry’s passion. Here, he wasn’t a physician. He was Dad. Les has video from the 1930s showing Dr. Plummer playing with his children in the garden. Les says, "We have this picture of Henry Plummer. He was a fantastic person and a genius, but he’s still a dad to a 12 or 13 year old kid that’s trying to throw apples at him and make him duck."

In his job, Les sees how much joy the gardens bring to people today. He shared a story about a recent visitor who came to the Plummer House as a cancer patient years ago. He has now returned for a peaceful escape from waiting rooms while his wife undergoes treatment at Mayo Clinic.  

Henry Plummer lived in the mansion until his death in 1936. Daisy kept this as her home for another 33 years.

Crew Chief Ben Anderson says, "Dr. Plummer building this property – the house, the grounds and being able to maintain this property is a joy to me."  

On July first, Les Cookman and his wife Sandy will have been the caretakers of the Plummer House property for 29 years. Since Daisy Plummer moved out of the home in 1969, the only other caretaker of the property has been Roy Sutherland.  

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