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May 8, 2015
Granville Inn reopens after $9 million renovation
Columbus Dispatch

The Granville Inn reopens today after an eight-month renovation that swapped out the guts of the 91-year-old inn while renewing its vintage charm.

Denison University bought the inn out of receivership in 2013 and then closed it in August for a $9 million overhaul. It has new heating and cooling systems, all-new ductwork, nine additional guest rooms, a new bar, kitchens and an elevator.

“Every piece of wire and plumbing was replaced,” said Charles Lagarce, president of Columbus Hospitality Management, which will run the inn for Denison University. “It was a feat getting an elevator into this building.”

The inn’s roof required all-new copper gutters, downspouts and trim, plus 4,000 pieces of slate.

The three-season room off the former pub is now an open-air patio shaded by the property’s enormous trees. With the awning gone, light pours through restored windows into the new tavern space, which is dominated by a large, U-shaped bar with local craft beer on tap.

The Tavern at the Inn, which was the formal dining room, will serve sandwiches and other casual fare. The old pub is now the Oak Room, an upscale dining space with a working fireplace and a menu that includes salmon, pork chops and steaks.

Executive chef Chad Lavely has been at the inn for six years. He saw it through the worst of its history and helped shape some of its new life.

Standing behind the bar, which is ringed by red, upholstered stools, Lavely said his love of old things drew him to the inn.

“The reason I came here was for the history,” he said. “This is what I like.”

Lavely and others spent months going through the inn’s attic and basement, which were full of old documents, paintings, furniture and other artifacts. Some of the furniture has been restored and is scattered around the inn. Dishes bearing images of Denison’s buildings were put in cabinets around the tavern. Chandeliers were rewired and repurposed.

As Lavely looked around the tavern full of guests sampling dishes and testing menu items, he smiled.

“This is like Christmas,” he said.

The attic, unburdened of its accumulated history, was carved into new guest rooms, which now total 36 plus three suites. The rooms are airy, bright and modern with marble-tiled baths and comfortable sitting rooms. The former garage, once full of broken lawn mowers, is now a meeting space big enough for 65 people on the first floor and guest rooms above it. One room, dubbed the wedding suite, features an enormous bathroom with a free-standing soaking tub.

The space that includes the old driveway and delivery area is now a courtyard.

“It was in pretty rough shape when Denison acquired it,” Lagarce said. “We saw the potential, but we knew it was going to take a lot of resources.”

The inn is booked for today’s grand opening, Lagarce said, as it is the rest of this weekend, thanks to Mother’s Day. The original plan to offer reservations for 300 for brunch on Mother’s Day was scrapped due to crushing demand. The inn took 400 reservations.

“We are sold out,” Lagarce said.

He expects the following weekend, May 16-17, to be even busier as Denison celebrates graduation.

The school is represented everywhere at the inn: the red of the bar stools, framed photos and even a 1924 football program — the Big Red finished 3-4-1.

“Denison knew how important it was to Granville and to their alumni,” Lagarce said.

Among the things found in the attic was a June 26, 1924, article clipped from the Ohio State Journal about the original christening of the inn. The headline reads, “5,000 attend opening.”

Lagarce hopes such a crowd doesn’t show up today.

“I couldn’t feed them all,” he said, laughing.