Rochester, N.Y.— Ever since the popular, upscale restaurant Edwards left the Jonathan Child House in 2004, the historic home was left empty and without a tenant.
An Italian restaurant briefly occupied the house after Edwards, but no company or business has held that space long-term since then. However, now a new tenant has moved in.
In the fall, Rochester Pillars will open for business at the house. The owner Osvaldo Arroyo says Pillars will operate as a premier special events venue. They plan to host receptions, weddings and parties.
“I was surprised no one was using this facility given the fact that it's located downtown how beautiful it is,” Arroyo says. “There had to be work done to it but I was committed to putting in that work and be successful.”
Arroyo is an employee with the Rochester City School District. The headquarters are located right next to the Jonathan Child House. Arryo says he would park by the house and always wondered what it looked like inside.
The house was built for and named after Rochester’s first mayor, Jonathan Child. It was built in 1837. Throughout the decades it’s served several purposes. It once housed The Washington Club, The Fourth Church of the Christ Scientist, the Bureau of Municipal Research, the Rochester Health Commission and later, Edwards Restaurant.
Arroyo says it feels good to bring life back to the home after eight dormant years.
Arroyo has also formed a special partnership when it comes to the food that will be served at the house. Because he is a RCSD employee, Arroyo had a special interest in East High Schools Culinary Arts Program.
“My question was happens to graduates of the culinary program?” he says. “Where are they going? Are they finding jobs? I found that there was a gap. I thought we could fill that gap here and give them real-world experience so they can go out get jobs later.”
Chef Jeff Christiano is an instructor at the New York Wine and Culinary Center and he also runs the culinary arts program at East High School. Christiano agreed to be the chef at Rochester Pillars but to also hire East High students who graduated from the program and from culinary college to work under him. They will help Christiano operate a catering service and a café at the Jonathan Child House.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Christiano says. “It’s a great opportunity for [my former students] to come starting from college and actual put in to practice what they've learned. The goal is for them is, after a year, to go out in the community and open their own businesses. For them to develop a following is really important.”
Chrisitano says he hopes this opportunity will show his future and current students at East High School that they can make it in the industry.
Tim Green graduated from East High in 2007 and went to the Culinary Institute of America after high school. He is one of the three men Christiano has chosen to work with at Rochester Pillars.
“For the most part, it’s a great opportunity for me to go back into the kitchen and it's a great opportunity to show the students Chef Christiano is working with that they can do something with the stuff he taught them.”
Green says he cooks to see the joy and happiness on people’s face when they eat good food. He says working in culinary arts has helped him imagine a better life for himself.
“It shows the inner city that they can do something with themselves besides hanging out in the streets,” Green says. “I hope my story will get students out of the city as well and show them that they can make it out.”
The café at the house will be open to the public. Arroyo says they expect to open its doors shortly after Labor Day and then host a grand opening for the venue sometime in October.