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19 Responses to “Inside 65-67 Chestnut St. – Old Hotel Richford”

  1. Ben says:

    Were there any news stories of who actually bought this building? Didn’t realize this one was on the list to be redeveloped as well, good to see though.

  2. Mark says:

    Glad to see that it’s finally going to be renovated become a useful part of Rochester again. It’s a shame it was let get into this condition to start with however

  3. James says:

    Glad it’s going to be reused. Ton of photos in here, almost overwhelming. The fisheye can get a little much.

  4. John says:

    Wow, I always assumed it was an urban renewal building from the ugly exterior. It’s mind boggling why someone would tear off the original facade for what is on there currently. With the state of the building, I’d say we’re lucky the building is still up and about to be renovated. I’m surprised it’s not a gravel lot like the west side of downtown.

  5. Richard Long says:

    The Richford was a dumpy residential hotel in the 50s, inhabited largely by working men in Rochester for a few weeks or months, with a small restaurant on the basement level. It served a purpose then. It was noted for being a clean place, and reasonable rent.

    Around 56 the City solved the shortage of downtown parking by erecting the famed Pigeon Hole Parking structure between the hotel and Broad Street. That brought a whole new level of noise to the rooms on that side and left them unrentable. The CYO down the block had a lot of empty available rooms thanks to cars and television eliminating resident businessmen who now left downtown for home in Pittsford etc. every day rather than staying in the city, and rented them to all men with the cash to rent a room. CYO also offered a gym, pool, bowling alleys and a restaurant. The Richford lost more guests.

    A few years later Pigeon Hole Parking was disassembled and sold to somebody who thought they could run it, after the City’s elevator operator dumped a few cars from upper levels.

    Trailways cane with Midtown, possibly in 64, and Midtown had a hotel on top. The Richford was DEAD. Unlike the Cadillac, Richford didn’t aim for the welfare market.

    Around 75 the State DMV moved from W Broad & Fitsugh to offices on the first floor of the Richford, spending a lot of tax money to remodel.
    Politics changed, and when the lease was up DMV moved again. That ended the restaurant in the Richford.

    In the early 90s, Harris Wilcox attempted to sell the building at Auction. After 2 days of possible buyers going through the building, they weren’t able to get an opening bid of $100. If they had somebody would have owned the building for $100, but the back taxes and refusal by the City to lower the assessment would have killed them.

    With the geographic relationship to Midtown the Richford is screwed in terms of being able to get anything in and out of via truck. The elevated first floor adds to the problem.

    The metal cladding on the building is a leftover from Urban Renewal in the 60s when some “planner” had a fascination with aluminum skinned buildings.
    The first clad was Lauer’s Furniture on State street, covered in gold colored aluminum over a few weeks by a giant bucket truck.

  6. Gary says:

    Thanks so much for publishing the photos, as depressing as they are. It’s exciting to know the building will see new life. I recall both adjacent buildings as urban hotels, the Richford and the Cadillac, while I was a student at RIT’s downtown campus. We students often walked over there and to the nearby Bamboo Club on East Avenue, a block away. While they weren’t as elegant as the Sagamore, the Rochester or the Manger, both were solid downtown hotels. The Richford even had its own Urban Legend. An older woman, possibly homeless but well-dressed, would come stand quietly on Chestnut Street, late at night, in front of the hotel. When she thought no one was looking, she would pee on the sidewalk and leave. She was legendary among RIT students. (BTW, the Bamboo Club was a strip club with cheap beer. It’s now the parking lot adjacent to RG&E at the corner of Chestnut. East Avenue had a very different vibe in those days.)

    As for the metal cladding that Richard Long mentioned, my first job as a student in Rochester was working at the Erdle Perforating Company at Bull’s Head (on York Street near the railroad), a heavy industry that worked sheet metal into the decorative architectural grillwork so popular at the time. I was their Sample Department, cutting 10″ squares of anodized perforated metal and shipping them to potential customers. Amazingly, I lost no fingers while operating their huge industrial shears and brakes needed to cut the little squares from sheets of steel, brass and aluminum. In the back of the factory was a massive degreasing pit that was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. Many pallets of 4×8 sheet metal were lowered into the huge pit where a bath of chlorinated hydrocarbon vapors washed away the oil coating the metal. The heavier-than-air vapor was invisible, but could be seen washing against the metal sides of the pit as if it were waves in a swimming pool. It was creepy. I had nightmares of falling into the pit and being dissolved. Industrial safety wasn’t a big deal at that time. Erdle had produced the cladding for Lauer’s and many other Rochester buildings “modernized” in the sixties.

  7. Chris Stone says:

    Not sure where the information about redevelopment came from, but there are no pending or active permits with the city for any sort of renovation work.

  8. jeff freeland says:

    How many dumpster loads to prepare the building for apartments. It will take months…

  9. John says:

    Maybe this building got confused for the one on Elm behind the Cadillac. I think that is getting made into housing aimed at Eastman student. Could see these 2 buildings easily getting confused.

  10. Malcolm says:

    I assume that the exterior could be returned to the original brick/stone/ look/feel, correct? It would be an ideal case from a NTHP profile in Preservation Magazine.

  11. Gary says:

    That all depends on how the metal was attached. Usually when an older building was “modernized” in the 1960s, there was no looking back. The change was considered permanent, so little care was taken to make it reversible. Brick might be repaired, but in the case of large areas of stone, such as this facade appears to use, there may have been permanent damage. Whether it went too far to restore needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The old Hotel Rochester (former RIT dormitory) was a case in point. When it was covered in sky-blue ceramic tiles in the 1970s to become the Mariner Motor inn, all the stone detailing was chipped away. Even then, the tiles didn’t adhere well and some dropped off. A beautiful building was permanently defaced and finally demolished. It’s now yet another of Rochester’s historically significant parking lots (east of Plymouth, between Main and Broad).

  12. Ben says:

    John – last I had read the Cadillac was actually the one that was supposed to be redone aimed at Eastman students, and 88 Elm(behind the Cadillac) would be mixed-use apartments/office space. Of course, these plans are always changing.

  13. UPDATE: This article previously stated that 65-67 Chestnut had approval to be converted into “96 apartments.” This information was sourced from Emporis.com external link and may be outdated or inaccurate information. Although nearby 88 Elm and 50 Chestnut are also being renovated, additional sources we checked do indicate that plans are in the works for 65-67 Chestnut. We’ll just have to wait a bit longer for specific details to surface.

  14. Richard Long says:

    Bouncing off Gary’s reference to the Hotel Rochester, which along with the Powers Hotel survived being a residence hotel for RIT students in the 60s: The Powers went on to become the Executive Office mess when low budget contractors, particularly the electrical contractor caused a fire. It remains a (NOT Code compliant) Fire trap to this day.

    The Rochester suffered the humiliation of the Blue brick veneer job. The work there was so well done the Bricklayer’s Union Local issued warnings to the citizens of Rochester to use sidewalks on the other side of the street, because the Budget Contractor did the usual BUDGET job. Rochester’s newspapers actually had reporters who covered the story, and City Inspectors (undoubtedly related to elected officials) assured the public the brick veneer was safe.

    Work on the interior was of the same quality as the work on the veneer and it showed up quickly as well. Things got entertaining as blue glazed bricks began denting Plymouth Avenue’s pavement.

    Rochester has quite a number of buildings turned to rubble by the “Urban Renewal” of the 60s, and some of them haven’t reached Benvenuto’s Gully off Lake Avenue yet.

    A special thanks should go out to the Politicians and Inspectors of Rochester in the 60s & 70s.

  15. Gary says:

    Richard, Thanks for expanding on the Rochester Hotel. I lived away during the 70s and saw it rarely. Many of my RIT friends had lived there and i envied them the quality of their rooms.

  16. Chris Stone says:

    I think only the first floor was stone or cultured stone. The upper floors look like they were yellow or buff colored brick.

  17. Cheryle Wood says:

    Surprised to see it still standing. I remember visiting it as a student at RBI in 1964-65. It was the dorm for the female students and had a staff to supervise them.

  18. Richard Long says:

    Cheryle, you speak of a different time, a different world and some days I think a different civilization as well. I often wonder how many RBI grads went forward from there with a solid base of knowledge of how business functioned, and into American industry and business.

    I well recall kids striving to get into RBI because it would be an almost guaranteed path to a white shirt job at Kodak or B&L, Xerox was still small back then. I also remember hundreds of them eating lunch in Washington Square Park every day to save some money.

    Supervised dorms for female students, the standard back then, much akin to Anderson Hall over behind the MAG, now one of the Red Cross buildings. How many young males learned to scale walls to get into the dorm back then?

  19. AbandonedBuildingAddict says:

    It’s a shame to see the neglect this building has been through, but if it’s the top floors that are in the worst condition maybe they could knock a few stories off and then redo it. If the bottom is the worst off, then I’m not sure if it’s worth the trouble. The building wasn’t a very fancy place to begin with. And it’s from the time period when they still used asbestos, so is there asbestos in there? And if there is it might just be better to leave it and not renovate because it would just cost far too much either way. Nice photos though.


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