Historic Granville inns get refreshed in new millennium style

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

In light traffic, it takes less than 45 minutes to drive east from Broad and High to downtown Granville. While the sojourn is brief, the journey is significant. Downtown Columbus reverberates with digital signage, crowded eateries and looming skyscrapers, while Granville is a small town that exudes New England-style charm.

Located just east of Granville's welcoming town square are two gracious inns with storied pasts that include famous guests and lingering ghosts. The Buxton Inn and The Granville Inn, which date back to 1812 and 1924, respectively, also offer fine dining options. Countless weddings, rehearsal dinners, holidays and more have been celebrated at both venues, but the passage of time has left its mark.

Within the last year, both inns have undergone extensive renovations that updated each venue while paying homage to their fascinating pasts. Both facilities are operating under new owners who hope their investments will ensure that guests continue to make new memoriesand relive happy ones for many years to come.

The Granville Inn

This once-grand inn was falling into a state of severe disrepair when Denison University came to the rescue, buying it out of receivership in 2013. The facility was closed in August 2014 to undergo an extensive facelift and the upgrade of nearly every mechanical system in the building.

When the total renovation of the stately inn was unveiled last May, its $9 million price tag paid for updated guest rooms, a new kitchen, renovated dining areas and a finished carriage house with an adjoining patio used for special events. Each of its 39 guest rooms now include custom-made, maple bedside tables and dressers. Every mattress and all bedding were replaced, too.

During the renovation, nine new and interesting guest rooms were added to the inn's third floor. Three of those are luxury suites, designed to mix the structure's history with modern conveniences.

The outside walls of a two-room luxury suite, for example, expose sandstone originally sourced from the nearby Bryn Du estate. Sloped ceilings inject a welcoming vibe. A gigantic en suite bathroom washes away memories of the building's true age, while a large soaking tub and white subway-tiled shower promise peaceful relaxation.

The inn's adjoining carriage house also underwent a dramatic overhaul, says General Manager Sean Mulryan. This space-which historically served as part of an all-girls boarding school before the inn existed-is now a popular destination that can be reserved for special events.

Underneath the inn's visible refresh, the building also received new plumbing, electrical wiring, cooling and heating systems, and its first elevator ever. On the exterior, 4,000 pieces of slate and all-new copper gutters, downspouts and trim were incorporated. Gone are the days of buckets in the lobby to catch the falling rain.

The Buxton Inn

Across the street from The Granville Inn, in what once served as a stagecoach stop on the line between Columbus and Newark, is The Buxton Inn, home to 25 guest rooms and suites housed in three separate buildings. A fourth structure is currently under renovation. When all updates are completed by year's end, a total of 10 more guest rooms will be available.

According to Robert Schilling, the managing general partner and a new owner of The Buxton Inn, half the rooms at the venue have been refurbished thus far, while most exteriors have been repaired and repainted.

This renovation is not the first the inn has undergone, of course. Previous owners, Orrville and Audrey Orr, did a thorough overhaul in the 1980s and 1990s. Still, there were obstacles once Shilling and his partners purchased the building. One of the primary goals has been met, and with careful planning and coordination, The Buxton Inn has not been closed one day for the ongoing work.

Another quandary includes the seven fountains scattered throughout the inn's courtyards, which are supplied with fresh water from a well on the property. "Trying to figure out how all the fountains work has been a challenge," says Schilling. Only one is still not functioning.

Jennifer Valenzuela, the facility's acting general manager, interior designer and Schilling's daughter, says her favorite spot at the inn is the Blue Room, also known as the Bonnie Bonnell Room, where a historic chandelier is graced by reflective mirrors.

"The light dates back to the Civil War," says Schilling. Playing on the theme of reflective light, Valenzuela hung several wall sconces that also feature mirrors, making this dining area-located in the center of the inn-sparkle with the intrigue of a past era.

Other design elements lend drama to the room. One is a large painting hanging over the room's wooden bar. During the inn's update, it was discovered that the original is hanging in a museum in Puerto Rico. The replica was painted by a Granville artist, a friend of Orville Orr, who owned the Buxton Inn for 42 years. Titled "Flaming Jane," the painting is reflected across the room in an enormous gold-rimmed mirror discovered in the inn's basement.

Other surprises abound. The entrance to the inn's basement tavern once used by stagecoach drivers still exists, although another stairwell is the favored route to access this cozy lower level, which features the original stones of the historic inn's foundation.

In the lower level of another section of the main building is the long-time wine cellar, a private dining room with walls adorned with some of the countless articles about The Buxton written over the years. Valenzuela refreshed this room with industrial-style seating, lending an edgy, contemporary vibe.

Renovations in the inn's guest rooms combine the comforts of the 21st century with the coziness of yesteryear. For example, bathroom updates feature ceramic floor tiles with designs that were popular in the 1800s. Thick carpeting in sleeping rooms was removed to expose original hardwood floors.

Tami Kamin Meyer is a Columbus-based freelance writer and an attorney.