Through the years, Denisonians have crossed the thresholds of the Buxton and Granville inns for admissions visits, graduations, reunions, and more than a few weddings, not to mention a sizable number of friendly meals. Now, both inns are looking for new proprietors as their current owners move on to retirement and new careers. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to glean a few stories from the past and share them with you.
Billed as “Ohio’s oldest continuously operated inn in its original building,” the Buxton Inn opened its doors 200 hundred years ago, in 1812. Originally known as “The Tavern,” the Buxton has served as a U.S. Post Office and a stagecoach stop, and has hosted three U.S. presidents. Plenty of Denisonians have taken advantage of the Buxton’s homey New England-style surroundings and extravagant gardens too, and the current owners, Audrey and Orville Orr, have many fond memories of them.
“From the very beginning, Denison students, parents and trustees have been part of our history,” said Orville. “I remember the first day we opened. It was a Parents Weekend, and the rooms hadn’t been completely furnished yet. The father of one of our student waiters, Molly Taylor ’74, helped us out and even carried his own mattress to his room.”
The late John Wood ’24, chair of Denison’s board of trustees in the early 1970s, stayed at the Buxton well before the Orrs took ownership. “In 1972, the Buxton had nine bedrooms, one bath, and no air conditioning,” Audrey Orr said. “After we remodeled and added bathrooms to every bedroom, John told us he was so glad he didn’t have to line up for a bathroom any more,” she added with a smile.
The Orrs remember how WDUB DJs and sportscasters would broadcast from the basement tavern, and how they even helped to solve a mystery. A candlestick from an antique girandole set in the greeting room had gone missing, and one of the student DJs aired a plea to bring it back–no questions asked. The next day the brass candlestick reappeared in its old place. “We think it was some kind of prank, but we were so glad to have it back,” the Orrs said.
Denison faculty have been supportive of the Buxton as well. When the Orrs decided to restore the inn to its original color–that distinctive salmon pink–some of the townsfolk weren’t very enthusiastic. Used to seeing the Buxton in a more sedate white with green trim, the strident coral was a significant change for the village to absorb. The late Horace King, a venerated professor of art, researched the historical colors of the period and wrote a strong and persuasive letter to the community, which helped turn the tide in favor of the Orr’s choice.
The Granville Inn was built in 1924, on the site of the Granville Female Seminary (which subsequently merged with Denison University). In fact, according to the Granville Inn’s website, the school’s gymnasium and second floor classrooms were renovated during construction of the Inn and are now in use as the garage and overhead guest rooms.
The Granville Inn also has hosted its share of Denisonians, renowned Vail Series artists, and eminent guest lectures. “We feel so privileged, it’s been like watching a bit of history walk through our doors,” said Carla Beckerley, one of the Inn’s operators.
Being host to many of the Vail Series performers has offered some rare opportunities as well. “One of the musicians needed to have his boxers washed, so I took them home to do in our own laundry. But don’t ask me who it was–my lips are sealed.”
Beckerley also recalls a time during a reunion weekend when some alums were staying up late, celebrating. “You could hear lots of laughter and how happy they were,” she said. “They must have gotten hungry in middle of the night, too, because the night clerk found them raiding the dessert pantry.” (You know who you are.)
The Granville Inn even has a “Denison” room, featuring old photographs and college memorabilia, and there is a complete set of 12 Denison University plates, issued by Wedgewood for the school’s 125th anniversary in 1956.
Beckerley joins the Orrs in saying that some of her most favorite memories have been talking to new students and their parents as they explored Denison and Granville. “They always ask us about the town and the college, and we are so glad to be able to tell them the unvarnished truth. And believe me, it’s nothing but good.”