The vision of a gilded-age tycoon
The Granville Inn originated as the vision of a gilded-age tycoon. In 1924, a coal and railroad magnate, John Sutphin Jones, opened the Granville Inn and Golf Club.
Jones’s work in the railroad brought him to Granville, where he met and married Sarah Follett. Before moving to their sprawling estate, Bryn Du, they lived in her family home on West Broadway, which they named Monomoy Place.
In 1908, Jones purchased the land where the inn now sits on East Broadway, which was adjacent to Bryn Du. Prominent Columbus architect Frank Packard was enlisted to design the Inn to reflect the Jacobethan Revival style of an English country manor house.
The location was ideal since Jones also planned to transform the 200 westernmost acres of his land into a first-rate golf course with the help of renowned golf course designer Donald Ross. The golf course is now known as the Denison Golf Club.
The two projects shared the purpose of providing an elegant destination for motorists while also raising the tone of the community to the tastes of its leading citizen.
A fashionable destination
The idea of creating an inn was closely tied to the proliferation of automobiles and paved roads in the 1910s and early 1920s. Well-heeled day-trippers and tourists in motorcars were looking for lodging and diversion, and Jones wanted his adopted Ohio village to be a top destination.
An early promotional pamphlet for the inn and golf course includes a fold-out map showing all major roads between Chicago and New York leading to Granville, Ohio. Descriptions were designed to tempt “the traveling and pleasure-seeking public … those who know and appreciate service of the highest type,” playing up Granville’s “ancestral” trees, electric lighting, “splendid waterworks [i.e., indoor plumbing], and well-paved streets.”
A grand opening
On June 26, 1924, an estimated 5,000 guests attended the opening reception. Facilities included 24 sleeping rooms; an oak-paneled “great hall” lobby with sofas, easy chairs, and a long library table for reading; and an “unroofed piazza” to the back with a fountain, where guests danced under the stars. Downstairs offered gentlemen two smoking rooms, a billiard room, and a bar, whatever that word implied five years into Prohibition. The buffet menu that evening included Lobster a la Parisienne and vanilla ice cream from Jones’ Bryn Du Farm.
The building’s cost was judged to be in the dizzying range of $600,000, and the golf course was an additional $200,000. Acknowledging its own extravagance, the inn’s brochure describes it as “an enterprise based on civic pride without consideration of immediate profit.” The year after its opening, John Willy, editor of The Hotel Monthly magazine, was lured from Chicago by the inn’s reputation for charm and comfort. He wrote, “The village of Granville, in Licking County, Ohio, is noted for having the most costly small hotel of any place in America, if not in the world.”
When John Sutphin Jones died in 1927, ownership of the inn passed to his first daughter, Sallie Jones Sexton, a horsewoman and noteworthy character, but generally acknowledged not to have inherited her father’s gift for finance. Despite receiving its first significant facelift in the early 1950s (including the addition of nine guest rooms), the inn’s future became clouded.
Seriously hobbled by bills, Sallie Jones Sexton lost the Granville Inn and her beloved Bryn Du farm. In 1976, the inn was sold in a 1976 sheriff’s sale to Paul Kent and his son, Robert Kent. The Village of Granville had just voted to allow the sale of alcohol at this time, so in addition to converting the former oak-paneled lobby into a dining room, the Kents created a tavern in what had been a small sunroom behind the dining room, providing a popular gathering place.
In 2003, the Kent family sold the inn to Granville Hospitality, a group of local investors. Operations continued as usual, but the 2008 recession was unkind to business, and the facilities were sinking under deferred maintenance.
In November 2013, Denison University purchased the Granville Inn. The Inn underwent a massive combination of historic restoration and renovation and reopened in May 2015. The renovation included adding an entirely new restaurant kitchen, a catering kitchen, 1,200 square feet of event space in the former garages, full laundry facilities, nine hotel rooms, an elevator, enhanced landscaping, improved accessibility, and additional parking.
Revived as a source of community pride
Still an “enterprise based on civic pride,” the Inn is a gathering place for the community and visitors and a setting for countless occasions. It is often a destination for lodging and entertaining visiting guests, lecturers, job candidates, prospective students, parents of students, and alums.