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Page4A Thursday,October22,2015 DemocratandChronicle. com The Johnson House is a landmark restaurant in Churchville that was built in the late 1800s as a hotel. The building on South Main Street a lso served at various times as a tavern, s tagecoach stop and store. Peggy Naught on has owned the place for nearly 40 y ears after she and her husband bought the building almost on a whim. But the real attention-grabber with this landmark involves a notorious 1897 murder and an alleged ghost at the Johnson House, which we’ll address shortly. The story begins in 1882, when a huge fire destroyed nine buildings on the west side of South Main Street in Churchville. Among the vanished properties was the Bogorte’sstore and opera house, according to documents from Churchville historian Ron Belczak. Aman named George A. Smith pur- c hased the Bogorte land and built the Clinton Hotel on the site in 1885. That brick building is now known as the Johnson House. Smith ran the place with his wife, Gertrude. One night in 1897, summoned by a nurse who had been staying with the Smiths, responders found George Smith bound and gagged in the Smith family r esidence. Gertrude had been severely beaten and shot in the head. George told a uthorities that he and his wife had been confronted by masked men who demanded money. Gertrude died a few days later. G eorge Smith was convicted of murder and sentenced to die. His sentence was later changed to life in prison, where he died in 1909. Authorities granted Smith his last wish, to be buried next to his wife i n the Churchville cemetery. M eanwhile, the old Smith Hotel changed hands several times. Hiram and Ruth Johnson bought the place in 1946, extensively renovated the building and renamed it the Johnson House. The M cCombs family acquired the place in 1 968, decorated the banquet rooms and opened the lower-level Paul Revere Lounge for dining. One night in 1977, Mike Naughton took his wife, Peggy, there for her birth- d ay. Bill McCombs, the owner, app roached them. “He said, ‘You should buy this place. Shewould be perfect,’” Peggy Naughton r emembered. “We were not thinking about buying a restaurant at all. I was shocked.” But indeed they did buy the restaurant. Mike was particularly intrigued by t he thought of changing careers from c ontractor to restaurateur. Peggy had grown up working for her parents’ Rochester grocery store. “We were used to dealing with people,” Peggy said. “We were hard-work- i ng people, and it worked.” T he Naughtons’ eight children all worked there at various times. After Mike died in 2006, Peggy has run the place with help from daughter Mary Murray,who handles catering. The Johnson House’s many amenities include an open-hearth grill, a fireplace, a baby g rand piano (with live music on weekends) and three private party rooms. The menu mainstays include steak, chicken and seafood. Peggy Naughton described the cuisine as “between casual and fine dining, more fine dining.” Her piano player, Sue Feuerherm,has been with her for 30 years. The chef, Michael Briddon,has w orked at the Johnson House for more than four years. A nd now back to the murder of Gertrude Smith: Peggy Naughton has heard and told the story over and over. She called the case “one of Rochester’s most u nsolved murders,” noting how many were skeptical that George Smith had killed his wife. “I think we have a ghost here,” Peggy said. Sometimes, a light that she had t urned off would be on, or vice versa, she s aid. Sometimes, a strange voice can be heard from speakers in the restaurant, she said. “When something like that happens, I tell people ‘that was the ghost,’ ” she said. “ But she’s a good ghost.” M orrell is a Rochester-area freelance writer. ots Landmark Johnson House’s history includes ghost ALAN MORRELL PROVIDED BY CHURCHVILLE HISTORIAN RON BELCZAK The Johnson House as it appears today. PROVIDED BY CHURCHVILLE HISTORIAN RON BELCZAK The Johnson House once was a hotel, as seen in this circa 1890s photo. EVAN SEMONSTAFF FILE PHOTO Patrons enjoy dinner at Naughton’s Johnson House, 19 S. Main St. in Churchville, in this 2001file photo. Go deeper on digital Join the conversation about our history and our heritage at RocRoots.com , where you’ll find stories, videos, photo collections and more. F ollow us at Twitter.com/RocRootsand like us at Facebook.com/RocRoots. ROCRoots Exploring our past. Inspiring our present. The University of Rochester has named a new chief financial officer. Holly Crawford will, as of Jan. 15, become UR’s senior vice president for administration and finance, chief financial officer and treasurer. She succeeds Ronald Paprocki, who is retiring after serving UR for more than 45 years. Crawford currently is senior associate vice president for budgets and planning and has been Paprocki’s deputy for eight years. She was selected to her new post after anational search. UR is the largest employer in the Rochester area. UR President Joel Seligman, in a s tatement announcing Crawford’s appointment on Wednesday, said she was a “standout candidate” with a proven t rack record. She will head up UR’s administration and finance team, which includes fin ance, budget, audit, campus planning and design, facilities, purchasing, auxiliary services, human resources, public safety and environmental health and safety. In her current position as senior associate vice president, Crawford has been responsible for management of UR’s multibillion-dollar operating budget, capital budgets and five-year financial plans. She is also leading the planning and implementation of budget development and the financial planning information system. She also played a major role in the development of College Town, the $100 million mixed-use project along Mt. Hope Avenue. Crawford joined UR in 1998 as director of university audit and conducted the first university-wide risk assessment and developed a construction auditing program. She has since taken on new responsibilities and in 2014 was promoted to senior associate vice president. Crawford is a certified public accountant as well as a certified management a ccountant and certified internal auditor. She earned her MBA from the Simon S chool of Business and a bachelor’s in accounting from Long Island University. Before joining UR, Crawford held acc ounting and audit positions at businesses, including Bausch + Lomb, ACC Corporation and Arthur Anderson LLP. In the statement announcing her appointment, Crawford praised Paprocki as “a great mentor.” JGOODMAN@Gannett.com University of Rochester chooses financial officer JAMES GOODMAN @GOODMAN_DANDC James Waters, a former adviser in the George W. Bush White House who left p olitics to fight in the war in Afghanistan with the Navy SEALs, will be in Rochester Thursday for a speech at the Rochester School for the Deaf. Waters worked in the White House from 2001to 2005 and was part of the team that first set up the Department of Homeland Security. He enlisted in the Navy in 2006 and completed three deployments with the SEALs, serving as a platoon commander. He left the military in 2012, got an M BA from Harvard Business School and now serves as vice president of Compass P artners, a bank in New York City. His appearance at Rochester School for the Deaf is part of its Adventures in E ducation program. There will be a c ocktail reception at 5 p.m. followed by his presentation at 7 p.m., both in the s chool auditorium, 1545 St. Paul St. T he presentation will be interpreted into American Sign Language and real- time captioned. It costs $25 to attend the presentation or $50 for the reception and the presentation. “The Rochester community is fortunate in having this extraordinary, courageous young man share his experiences and insights with us ... as together we rediscover what it means to dedicate our l ives to the service of others,” retired U.S. Army Major General John Batiste, h onorary chairman of the Rochester School for the Deaf’s 2015 Adventures in Education program, said in a statement. F or more information or to buy t ickets, go to rsdeaf.org/adventuresor call (585) 544-1240, ext. 0. J MURPHY7@Gannett.com Ex-Navy SEALto speak in city JUSTIN MURPHY @CITIZENMURPHY James Waters, former Navy S EAL and White House staffer.