A century-old house whose history is intertwined with Denison University

To find the white English country-style house at 2256 Columbus Road in Granville, visitors must first follow the winding driveway, marked only by two stout stone pillars, up and up farther still through a tunnel of trees until the path curves for the final time and emerges from its leafy canopy. There, on top of a hill overlooking a grassy pasture, sits the Middleton House, named for former owners Claude and Dorothy Middleton, who lived in the 6-bedroom home from 1935 until they donated it and a portion of their acreage to Denison University in 1961.

Dorothy preceded her husband in death, and in 1979 Claude donated the remaining property to Denison. In all, the gift included their 7,000-square-foot house, 4-car garage, a barn with stables and nearly 44 acres of land. The donation brought the property's history full circle.

Denison University was founded in 1831 atop the very same hill that holds the Middleton House today. It was known then as the Granville Literary and Theological Institution and consisted of a small dormitory and a single classroom. Students struggled to make their way from the small village of Granville to the campus, a journey that required a mile-long trek through undeveloped and often muddy terrain. When the school's board of trustees voted to relocate, they uprooted the lone academic building-nicknamed Old Frame-and planted it where Denison now stands. Soon after, the land was sold to a private owner, and the current stucco-and-slate 3-story house was built there in 1915.

After the Middletons' generous gift to Denison, university officials used it as a guest house for visiting faculty and a conference center until they sold the property in 2005. The new owners made extensive updates-like replacing the boiler with central air and heat and renovating the outdated kitchen-but did so while maintaining the integrity of the original architecture and style.

Original floors, windows and woodwork, for instance, remain, and each bedroom still boasts its own fireplace. Quirky details throughout, like a wall safe in one closet and a hidden doorway between the dining and family rooms, are a permanent reminder of the house's 100-year life. But the most striking feature of all might very well be the foyer and its grand staircase. An arched window at the landing halfway through the ascent offers a breathtaking view of the sprawling property. It also floods the wide stairwell with light.

The interior is, no doubt, stunning. But nothing beats what's outside. A wide stone-floored veranda hugs the house, offering unobstructed panoramas of the pasture and rolling, wooded hills. A balcony off the master suite upstairs also provides shade and scenery. And when the trees along the eastern horizon thin in the winter, views of the academic buildings on Denison's College Hill poke through bare branches-a reminder of the property's ties to the historic university.