Expansion plans by the owners of the Golden Lamb Inn are only the latest for the iconic hotel, restaurant and bar’s more than two centuries of existence.
Last week, the Lebanon Planning Commission approved a plan expected to cost more than $1 million and add a veranda for outdoor dining and interior improvements on the non-original, south side of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places for architectural and cultural reasons.
“The Golden Lamb is the oldest Inn in the State of Ohio,” according to materials filed with the application for the changes.
The building at 27 S. Broadway has been visited by luminaries of American history ranging from Charles Dickens to Annie Oakley and about a dozen presidents.
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On Sept. 19, 1968, Ronald Reagan, at the time California’s governor, campaigned for Congressman Donald E. “Buz” Lukens who had supported Reagan at the Republican Party’s Presidential Convention that summer.
“We want to invest in the Golden Lamb to keep it viable for years to come,” General Manager Bill Kilimnik said last week, sitting in one of the historic dining rooms in the original brick structure built around 1815.
“There’s a fine line between historic and shabby,” he added.
The Golden Lamb was originally built in 1803 by Jonas Seaman and operated as a “house of public entertainment,” according to its history. The name came from a sign decorated with a golden lamb.
Since then, there have been numerous alterations, leading to the veranda and expansion approved last week.
“Project would include removal of the 1964 exterior steps and modification to the 1964 facade to accommodate a new brick-clad entry vestibule providing access to the first floor and basement and an elevated veranda for outdoor dining,” according to staff comments prepared for the planning commission.
“This work will continue the evolution of the building in a historically sensitive way and enhance the connection to the adjacent park and streetscape,” Kilimnik said in the application required because the building sits in the city’s historic district.
The expansion would replace the entrance to the gift shop and Black Horse Tavern, where the bar will be expanded from two to eight beer taps and make room for a Cruvinet wine storage system, Kilimnik said.
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Liquor wasn’t always on the menu of what was a “temperance hotel” called the Bradley House when Dickens visited in 1842.
“We dine soon after with the boarders in the house, and have nothing to drink but tea and coffee. As they are both very bad, and the water is worse, I ask for brandy; but it is a temperance hotel, and spirits were not to be had for love or money,” Dickens wrote in his American Notes for General Circulation travelogue.
At last week’s meeting, several planning commissioners agreed the expansion would look better than the current south side view, including the tavern entrance.
Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer urged Kilimnik to pursue with city staff the development of a path through the small gazebo park sharing the northwest corner of Broadway and Main Street with the Golden Lamb.
Across Broadway is the historic city hall, across Main Street a Carnegie library.
“I am so excited for this project to be happening,” Brewer said during the planning commission meeting. “Awesome.”
Part of the building’s significance is based on the FederalStyle architecture associated with the early years of the United States, particularly from 1785 and to 1815.
“These buildings represent a period time in history,” said Patrick Hansford, a local architect specializing in historic preservation, after reviewing the plan. “These buildings continue to have good life.”
After reviewing the plans, Loren Gannon, a retired state historic preservation officer, welcomed the expansion.
“You want it be kept viable. You can do that and still have a nice design,” he said.
History buffs and other tourists rent the 17 rooms on floors above the entrance, main dining room and tavern.
The expansion is one piece of an overall plan dating back about 10 years, Kilimnik said.
“We’ve always had a desire to add some outdoor seating,” Kilimnik said.
The Grant room has already been updated with modern luxuries. The Dickens dining room is currently being redone with a Victorian library theme.
Kilimnik estimated four to five new jobs would be created to manage the new space able to serve about 60 outside. If all goes well, he hoped to hold a grand opening in May.