I had lunch with Nathaniel Rochester today. Or, to be more accurate, I had lunch sitting in front of this mural of Nathaniel Rochester in the Founders Cafe in the Academy Building at 13 Fitzhugh St. S. I was doing research for a new book at St. Luke’s Church next door (more about that in another post) and took the opportunity to revisit a place where I spent three summers in the late 1960s, working for the Rochester City School District.
This renovated building was quite a change from the way I remembered it. When I worked there, the elevator was like something from the Haunted Mansion. No self service, it was operated by a woman with a deep voice who sat on a stool inside, who opened and closed the doors, and who took you to the floor you asked for. I don’t remember her ever smiling, but that could just be my faulty memory.
I worked up a few floors in the special ed department, filing students’ reports from the previous school year and putting together training manuals for the coming school year. There the people were very friendly and hard working although the space was serviceable at best and badly overcrowded.
My favorite memories (not favorable at the time) were of the times work would be interrupted by the sound of a woman shrieking. Everyone would look up, and someone would say, “She must have seen the bat.” We’d all nod in agreement and go back to work, as if that were a normal occurrence, which in fact it was. I, myself, never encountered the bat, but I definitely did not linger in the bathroom.
Today I have to say that the place is lookin’ good. I didn’t see the private offices or lofts, and I did not check out the bathroom, but the main floor was very clean, bright and cheerful. The cafe was well marked and easy to find. The quiche I had was very tasty. And I got to eat with Colonel Rochester.
I love it when old buildings retain their history while becoming functional in a modern world. Such a place is the Academy Building on Fitzhugh St., Rochester, NY.