Childs is a tiny hamlet in Orleans County, New York. Located just north of the county seat of Albion, Childs is near the center of the county and has just enough activity to make it worth considering as a jumping-off point for a tour of the region.
At the intersection of two state highways, Childs has plenty in common with other small hamlets scattered throughout Western New York. However, few hamlets have what Childs has: a top-notch restaurant in an old stagecoach stop, comfortable bed-and-breakfast-style accommodations, and a unique museum complex steeped in history.
The hamlet was first known as Fair Haven, so named by founder John Proctor, who hoped to establish a thriving village at the most significant crossroads in the area. He might have succeeded, except that five years later, the Erie Canal was routed less than three miles to the south, through Albion, which became the county seat.
Even without the canal, though, Fair Haven remained a popular stagecoach stop along the Ridge Road, thanks to the tavern built in 1824 on the northwest corner of the intersection. Before long, a church, several houses, and a one-room schoolhouse were constructed using the plentiful cobblestones left behind by retreating glaciers. A prominent graduate of the cobblestone schoolhouse was Henry Childs, the State Supreme Court justice for whom the hamlet was later renamed.
Today, the Ridge remains a major arterial route, though it carries cars and trucks rather than stagecoaches, and the old tavern is still in use as a modern-day watering hole. The school and the church are the centerpieces of The Cobblestone Museum, which aims to preserve that unique style of architecture for future generations.
Childs sits at the crossroads of New York State Routes 104 and 98. Route 104, Ridge Road, is a two-lane highway that traverses Western New York from Niagara Falls to a spot northwest of Syracuse. The Ridge was once an old Indian trail, and before that the shoreline of a prehistoric Lake Ontario. Route 98, Oak Orchard Road, begins in the Southern Tier near Salamanca, then makes its way north through Batavia and Albion, before ending just short of the Lake Ontario shore, at Point Breeze.
Childs is a small hamlet, and therefore everything is within easy walking distance, although the schoolhouse is about a quarter-mile down 104, and there are no sidewalks.
See and do
- 1 Cobblestone Museum Complex, 14393 Ridge Rd, Albion (parking behind the church, east of Rt 98), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. mid-May - 12 Oct: W-F 11AM-5PM, Sa Su 1PM-5PM; 13-31 Oct: Sa Su 1PM-5PM; last tour leaves at 4PM. The Cobblestone Museum is the main attraction in the hamlet. It also happens to be the only attraction. The Cobblestone Society was formed in 1960 to preserve the First Universalist Church, which was in danger of permanent deterioration. The church, schoolhouse, and the Ward House—the first three components of the complex—together constitute a National Historic Landmark, the Cobblestone Historic District. A standard guided tour includes these three buildings, and takes 1½-2 hours. The other buildings were added over time but are equally worth visiting. Adults $8-10, seniors $7, students (13-19 and college) $3, kids (12 and under) free, Individual building $3.
- The First Universalist Church was built in 1834 in the Federal style and is the oldest building in the complex—and also claims to be the oldest cobblestone church in the country. It serves as the headquarters for the museum and houses the museum gift shop in its basement.
- The Ward House was erected around 1836, probably as a parsonage for the church next door. Once owned by publisher Horace Greeley (of "Go west, young man" fame), the house has been furnished and decorated in a style befitting a late 19th-century home.
- The one-room District No. 5 Schoolhouse, a Greek Revival structure from 1849, is a popular destination for fourth-grade classes learning about local history. It's actually a wood-frame building, with the cobblestones only serving as a veneer rather than being structural.
- The blacksmith shop, print shop, harness shop, and farmer's hall are not cobblestone buildings, but they represent other types of structures that were in use in rural communities in the 1800s. Each has been outfitted with the tools of the corresponding trade or, in the case of the farmer's hall, agricultural implements of all types. These buildings are not part of the standard guided tours, but can be added by request if you have an additional hour.
- The brick house (built in 1836) between the convenience store and the church houses the museum's Resource Center and is not part of the tours. But if you want to do research into cobblestone architecture, the wealth of information within is available for your perusal, by appointment.
The Fair Haven Inn has a small gift shop adjacent to the parking lot it shares with the Village Inn, and the Cobblestone Museum gift shop is in the church's basement. If you need gas or other convenience items, Crosby's Mini Mart is on the northeast corner of the intersection.
The Cobblestone Museum is a great attraction, but it's not the only reason to make the trip to Childs. You can also get a great meal here, giving you double the reason to stop by.
- 1 Tillman's Historic Village Inn, 14369 Ridge Rd, Albion (NW corner of 98 and 104), ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-8ː30PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 10AM-8ː30PM. The Village Inn is one of the best restaurants in Orleans County. The only stagecoach house remaining on the historic Ridge Road has been serving travelers in one form or another for nearly two centuries. The original tavern was built in 1824, and continues to serve today as a bar. The large auxiliary dining room is in a carriage shop built before the Civil War. The smaller main dining room is in the carriage shed that was built after that war to connect the two businesses. Historic artifacts festoon the entire space, particularly in the former carriage shop, but the atmosphere is not rustic; the setting is one of restrained elegance, high-quality but casual. The food matches the atmosphere, combining quality steaks and seafood with homestyle comfort food. The prime rib is available every day and always on special. Prices are reasonable, though more expensive than the typical Orleans County restaurant. Entrees $13-24.
- 2 Crosby's Mini Mart, 14383 Ridge Rd, Albion, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5:30AM-10PM (11PM in summer). It's hard to recommend passing up the Village Inn, but if you're in a hurry, Crosby's offers lighter fare in a convenience store setting. In addition to packaged snacks and drinks, they have pizza, chicken wings, and even made-to-order subs available for takeout. They also have breakfast pizzas and calzones with omelet-style ingredients. Free WiFi. Sunoco gas station and ATM onsite.
The Village Inn offers a full bar, while Crosby's Mini Mart has beer available by the case.
Childs' central location in the county makes it a great place to rest your head between fishing jaunts or daytrips to Rochester or Niagara Falls.
- 1 Fair Haven Inn, 14369 Ridge Rd, Albion (adjacent to Village Inn), ☎ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. This is the only lodging in Childs. The Tillman family opened it several years ago in an 1837 Greek Revival house. The house has four bedrooms, and there are four more "Creekside" bedrooms in a nearby building. The rooms in the house have a more antiquated feel, while the Creekside rooms are more modern and more spacious. Each room has two double beds and a private bath. $80, with meal packages available that provide discounts at the Village Inn.
Businesses and homes in Childs have mailing addresses in Albion, ZIP code 14411. The area code is Rochester's, 585.
- Albion — traveling just three miles south on Route 98 gets you to the county seat and largest village in the county, with its Historic Courthouse Square
- Waterport and Point Breeze — taking Route 98 north to the lake will put you at Point Breeze, the mouth of the Oak Orchard River; it and the hamlet of Waterport are popular spots for fishing and boating
|Routes through Childs|
|END ← Point Breeze ←||N S||→ Albion → Batavia|
|Niagara Falls ← Lockport ←||W E||→ Rochester → Oswego|