Niagara Frontier : Orleans County (New York) : Childs
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.
Situated at the intersection of two state highways, Childs is like many other small hamlets scattered throughout Western New York. But few such hamlets have what Childs has: a top-notch restaurant housed 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 may 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 with 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 was built, then a one-room schoolhouse—both making good use of the plentiful cobblestones left behind by the retreating glaciers. Several houses in the hamlet also made use of cobblestone construction.
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 such a small hamlet that everything is within easy walking distance, though the schoolhouse is about a quarter-mile down 104, and there are no sidewalks to speak of.
See and Do
The Cobblestone Museum Complex is the main attraction. 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 other buildings in the complex were added over time.
The church, schoolhouse, and the Ward House together constitute a National Historic Landmark, the Cobblestone Historic District.
The Fair Haven Inn has a small gift shop adjacent to the parking lot it shares with the Village Inn. If you need gas or other convenience items, Crosby's Mini Mart is on the northeast corner of the intersection.
Tillman's Historic Village Inn is one of the best restaurants in Orleans County. The only stagecoach house remaining on the historic Ridge Road, the Village Inn 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 the 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, with entrees running about $13–$24.
The Village Inn offers a full bar, while Crosby's Mini Mart has beer available by the case.
The Fair Haven Inn 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. Rooms are $80 a night, with lunch or dinner packages available that provide discounts on meals at the Village Inn.
Businesses and homes in Childs have mailing addresses in Albion, ZIP code 14411. The area code is Rochester's, 585.