The Meeting House, Uncovered: Downtown Restaurant a Work in Progress
There's more downtown Rochester history to be uncovered; this time, it's inside the former Mind Body & Spirits.
It's surprising what you can find when you do a little digging.
While all sorts of historical finds — from trolley tracks to human bones — have been made up and down Main Street during this summer's makeover, history has also been uncovered at the corner of Main and Third.
When Jason Mood and Chris Johnson, owners of The Meeting House, looked to improve the facade of their new restaurant they found a lot of rotten wood. Not exactly what they were hoping for.
But underneath the decayed facing, they liked what they found.
A long history of a meeting place
The building at the corner of Third and Main was originally a dry goods store built in 1888 by B.A. Horvitz.
Most recently, it was the organic-and-local-foods hub called Mind Body & Spirits. Now, it's transforming into The Meeting House.
(Read all about it in Come October, They'll Be A New Place for Rochester To Meet and Eat.)
The building has housed many businesses in its 124 year history including Sutton Market, Country Mouse gift shop and Alvin's dress shop. In the early 1960's, when occupied by The Dants, the facade was added.
Although a fire gutted the interior in 1971, much of the exterior's original brickwork, decorative steel and stone remained hidden away — until now.
"Our designer is so excited and so are we," Mood said. "The more we find out, the more we want to emphasize the history of this building."
One of their discoveries was a 1897 photograph of the building. The photo shows people congregating in front of what was then the Horvitz store.
"Even back then people gathered here, making it a nice tie-in with our name, The Meeting Place," Mood said.
The owners have commissioned an artist to do a large charcoal drawing of the photograph to hang in the restaurant.
What stays and what changes
The brick exterior stays, with a coat of Charcoal by Benjamin Moore to freshen up the existing paint.
New steel awnings and windows will be added, windows that fold open to give the indoors that outdoor feel, when weather permits.
The number of windows is currently up for debate as there were originally three and now there is one.
"There's a decorative element to the upper windows that we originally thought was stone but is actually steel. That's great because steel can be moved if needed," Mood said. "We really want to preserve it and keep the design as close to the original."
The last element of the late-Victorian/Romanesque building is yet to be revealed: the gable on top. The original photographs show a rounded top that Mood and Johnson hope is still there under the last piece of facade.
"The idea is to go back to the historical feel and format so if the rounded top is not there we will add something similar to the original," Mood said.
What else is new on the corner?
A few other things have changed besides the exterior since our original conversation in July.
Originally Johnson and Mood were going to wait to remodel the second floor and deck. Instead they've decided to move ahead with both now. The second floor, with a service bar, will still be for private events only. The deck will be open to diners.
The deck changes will include fresh lighting, an awning system and a floor that allows any and all types of high heel shoes.
"We're jazzing it up now so it will be ready for that first nice spring day," Johnson said.
The greenhouse on the main level will be a lounge area but with an outdoor feel. The furniture will be built-in, there will be an ashwood plank wall and window sheers to let the light in while keeping the heat out.
Another important change for anxious Rochester diners to note is that the target open date has been moved back to mid-November.
"It's a process," Johnson said.
The interior structure changes — opening up the layout and the additions that entail — have been a bit of a project, according to Mood, but the pieces, including custom-made furniture, are coming together.
"Once we get to a certain point it will happen quickly," Johnson said. "But we want to do it the right way — we want it to be perfect."
The Meeting House will be located at 301 S. Main Street. To learn more about its menu, read Around Town Laura's story by clicking here.