GRANVILLE – The first Granville Historical Society program bearing the 2015 “Businesses On — and Off — Broadway” theme combined past and present.
The Granville Inn, which opened in 1924, became a stalwart of the Granville business community from the start and remained so through many ups and downs.
What guest speakers Adam Weinberg, president of Denison University, and Jeremy Johnson, vice president of project management for Robertson Construction, said in their address April 30 represented one of those “up” moments.
Their presentation came one week prior to Friday’s reopening of the key Central Ohio dining and lodging destination following its nine-month, $9 million renovation and expansion.
The Society’s “Business On — and Off — Broadway” theme will be featured in an exhibit in the museum at 115 E. Broadway this summer and in other programs coming up this year.
Denison purchased the inn in 2013 and set to work on the renovation, led by Robertson Construction, last August. Finishing touches are still being applied as the inn opens Friday.
“It still feels like the Granville Inn,” Weinberg said. “The quality is just beyond my wildest imagination.”
“When you walk in the front door (the lobby) is going to seem real similar, (but) freshened up,” Johnson said, saying the renovation has made the inn “modern and respectable, historically.”
Weinberg added that he has long believed the Colgate Inn, owned by Colgate University, is one of the nicest university-owned inns, but said, “This will blow the Colgate Inn away.”
Both Weinberg and Johnson expressed as nicely as they could the general state of the 91-year-old Granville Inn before renovation to an audience of nearly 100 at the Society’s annual meeting, held in Denison’s Burton Morgan Center.
“I stayed at the inn many times when I was transitioning into Denison,” said Weinberg, just completing his second academic year at DU. “Every time you stayed there, it was a new adventure.”
Johnson, describing challenges with the old mechanical systems, said, “If the mechanical system stopped working, you just put a new one below it.”
Weinberg said the university’s acquisition of the inn wasn’t debated much among its trustees. “It was the right thing to do.”
“The health of Granville matters an awful lot to the health of Denison. Many, many, many top colleges are located five miles past nowhere” and struggle with “distraught downtowns” that alumni and prospective students and staff members notice, he said.
“We don’t have any of those issues,” Weinberg said of the image downtown Granville projects. “By the time a student steps onto our campus, they’re genuinely excited.”
“The Granville Inn is crucial to our ability to recruit good students,” he said.
Johnson said goals for Robertson Construction and the crew of up to 80 workers and skilled laborers were restoring the inn to a solid, maintainable facility; making it respectful, friendly and accessible to visitors and employees; respecting its historic elements; making its fire suppression system code-worthy; and providing superior guest services with a minimum four-star rating.
“There’s a lot of historical stuff that’s still there and looks refreshed,” Johnson said.
Other “historical stuff,” like rotted wood in roofing, dirty and cluttered ceilings in mechanical areas and a disjointed kitchen are gone.
“Almost every ceiling on (the first) floor was ripped out,” he said of the formal dining and pub areas and what was known as the Great Hall, for installation of new utilities.
“When you turn on the hot water, it should work,” he said, noting that every inch of the utilities is new out to the street. “There’s not one utility — electric, plumbing, gas — that is old.”
In terms of accessibility and friendliness, Johnson said the inn is far more Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant than previously, when those with mobility challenges went up a ramp on the east side of the building and through the dining area to the lobby, and back out the same way.
Now, they may enter on the west side, through a door off the new courtyard that leads to a ramp running up to the lobby.
Historical Society Museum hours
• In May and September — Fridays 1-4 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.
• June-August — Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 1-4 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.