Reinventing the Jonathan Child House


Landmark Society staff were recently treated to a tour of an ongoing project at the Jonathan Child House in downtown Rochester. Painters and planners were hard at work sprucing up the interior spaces and finalizing details for the newest project to hit downtown.

The main ballroom is being spruced up with a new paint job.

So what, you ask, is going into this grand Greek Revival mansion (built in 1837-38 for Rochester’s first mayor, Jonathan Child)? After sitting vacant for years, the home of Rochester’s first mayor will soon be home to Rochester Pillars, a special events venue that will aim to be downtown’s premier historic venue and a force for positive change in our city (the name is a nod to the building’s later history–in 1885 it became a boarding house known as “The Pillars”).

During warm weather, patrons of Rochester Pillars will be able to enjoy their coffee in style from the grand portico.

Although details are still being finalized, the plans generally involve the creation of a café (featuring high-end food and coffee) on the first floor, with seating in the luxurious main ballroom and the front portico, beneath the massive two-story columns that make the building so identifiable. Eventually, the second floor rooms will be available for meetings and special events.

And here’s where this becomes more than just another coffee shop in a fancy old building: the café will be run by Chef Jeff Christiano and graduates of the Culinary Arts program at East High School. Ozzy Arroyo, the visionary leader behind this project, wanted to find a way to make a difference in his community and help the kids he’s worked with in his career. Eventually he connected with Chef Jeff, who is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and the former Executive Chef Woodcliff Hotel & Spa. Ozzy  needed a mission; Chef Jeff’s students needed real-world experience in order to get jobs–it was a perfect match.

Alex Estremera of Old School Painting, LLC, Ozzy Arroyo, Chef Jeff, and two graduates of the East High Culinary Arts program who will be working in the Rochester Pillars cafe.

Beyond giving these young adults a chance to fulfill their aspirations, Ozzy also aims to build on the momentum that downtown seems to be gaining, helping to continue to change negative perceptions about downtown Rochester.

So, a hats off to Ozzy and his crew! This project exemplifies what preservation is all about–reinventing historic places to new and creative uses and fostering revitalization, all with the aim of making a difference in our communities.

Plans are to launch the business one step at a time, with the café scheduled to open shortly after Labor Day. Visit the Rochester Pillars website for updates and a 360° virtual tour of the mansion.


Reinventing the Jonathan Child House


8 thoughts on “Reinventing the Jonathan Child House”

  1. This is great, though it makes it a bit more difficult for my grand plan of seeing RIT establish an urban campus for their new architecture school at The Bevier Building / Bruester Burke House / Child House.

    Either way this is a great project! Perhaps they would entertain serving this fine city’s finest beans…Joe Bean Coffee.

    • I have always considered the Bevier Building the handsomest building in Rochester. My family and I skated almost daily at the RIT ice rink given by Ritter Shumway. And I still pass the building often as I volunteer at the Susan B. Anthony House. I hope you’re successful in your plans for the new architecture school.

  2. This will be terrific for the neighborhood near Hochstein School that has the new Plymouth Terraces, and newer Nothnagle’s headquarters and Monroe County Crime Lab.

  3. I met with Ozzy about a week or so again. He really has a lot of enthusiasm for this project and sees a link between this building and the community. It is an ambitious plan but one that is certainly admirable. The interior looks great!

  4. Great to hear that this type of venue is being brought to downtown Rochester. We are in desparate need for a venue that could accommodate corporate meetings without the use of hotel space which usually is not conducive to corporate events.

  5. Hey, that’s my brother in the grey Dakarai! What a wonderful opportunity for our youth needing to express there passion. I hope they gain an understanding of there and strengths and weaknesses to maximize on there potential. The building is elegant and I can’t wait to dine there!

  6. When I was one of the organizers of the Chill the Fill campaign to save the subway tunnel, I was one of the tour guides that, after we could no longer give tours in the tunnel, led tours above ground along Broad Street. I loved pointing out and talking about the Jonathan Child house. But even more to the point, I often thought that it would make an ideal special events space — so I’m delighted to hear about this project. I’ll look forward to checking it out next time I’m back in town.

    Best wishes!

  7. Hey! Great idea – sounds EXACTLY like what we had expressed an interest to Chef Jeff years ago about the Johnathan Child house. Seems the idea got some traction. You should use Artpeace kids to work there like Kristin proposed. You can contact her through She’d be happy to know her idea is taking off, and kids in the city will be benefiting. Bravo!

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