“You transfix me, quite.”
This divine line comes from a confusing, but oh-so-swoonworthy, conversation between Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre in the 2011 film version of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, Jane Eyre. To witness this exchange between the heart-sore, soul-withered man and the gentle stranger whose society revives him, watch the minute-and-a-half clip here.
Long ago, something else quite transfixed me — the mysterious hats that the Buxton Inn’s waitresses wore as part of their uniform. Dressed in long calico frocks protected by white aprons, these ladies topped off their period look with a tall, narrow hat made from matching calico, with an eyelet trim rimming the ruffle. You would have to leave me a huge tip to wear some weird thing like that every day, my middle-school mind thought.
What was in those hats to make them stand up so tall, I continued to wonder, as the waitresses rushed around a dimly lit dining room loaded with feline bric-a-brac. My conclusion: A Campbell’s soup can. But was it full or empty? That perplexing question went unanswered.
When I took my seat for lunch in the inn’s newly redecorated Lincoln Room recently, something quite different transfixed me. The knickknacks of old have been
replaced by an uncluttered look, with sage-green walls and white woodwork reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg’s famed taverns. The tablecloths have been whisked away, revealing beautiful antique wooden tables with slick finishes, offset by comfortable black Windsor chairs. Simple wrought iron chandeliers and sconces enhance the natural light that pours through the deep-set windows. Antique clocks and transferware porcelain plates provide decorative period touches. The result is just perfect.
Located in Granville, Ohio, the Buxton Inn is our state’s oldest continuously operated inn still located in its original building. In 1806, Orrin Granger, a pioneer from Granville, Massachusetts, purchased some land in this new settlement upon which to build a tavern. By 1812, Granger’s establishment had become a stop on the stagecoach line between Columbus and Newark. Beneath a dining room and a ballroom on the ground floor, stagecoach drivers slept in a cellar with hand-hewn beams, a stone fireplace and stone walls.
After Granger died in 1818, his inn changed hands and became the subject of plenty of renovations. An east wing was added in 1829; in 1851, a two-story wing was constructed to form a U-shaped building with a center courtyard. The inn earned its present name in 1865, when Major Horton Buxton became its owner until 1902. Major Buxton’s cat became the inn’s symbol, and a feline presence has remained through subsequent owners.
William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William McKinley, Henry Ward Beecher, John Philip Sousa, Henry Ford, James Whitcomb Riley, Van Johnson and Yo-Yo Ma have all crossed the threshold of the salmon-colored clapboard structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, the inn expanded to become a five-building complex. Overnight guests can stay in two dozen rooms, each of which have been updated as part of an ongoing million-dollar makeover by Robert Schilling, owner of Columbus-based Urban Restorations, and his daughters, Adrienne Molnar and Jennifer Valenzuela, who bought the inn in December 2014. New bathroom fixtures were installed. Carpeting was removed, hardwood floors were refinished or replaced, and wallpaper was stripped in favor of modern shades of paint.
A new reception area is under construction, but it will still feature the desk and hutch from the days when the inn served as Granville’s post office.
The inn serves dinner, Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch in the Lincoln Room and two other dining rooms. Dinner fare includes chicken cordon bleu, prime rib, fresh Faroe Island salmon, and seafood Chesapeake, a tantalizing-sounding mixture of shrimp, scallops and fresh crab in a pecan cheese sauce over rice, served with a side salad. Eggs Benedict, pancakes, quiche, sandwiches and more are in the current Sunday brunch lineup. Choose between salads, hamburgers, bison burgers, and several sandwich options for lunch; the Reuben and club sandwiches we ordered were giant. Starting May 3, the inn will also be open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. New menus are on their way.
The Buxton Inn is located at 313 East Broadway Street in Granville. For more information, click here.