Ohio’s Oldest Hotel

Standing out front of the iconic Golden Lamb Restaurant & Hotel in Lebanon, Ohio, it is easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages and stagecoaches pulling in front for travelers to check-in for the night on their way to or from Cincinnati. Everything around the hotel has changed, yet it looks much like it has since it was built some 20 years after the Revolutionary War, albeit its name changed several times since then. Oh, and the old stables were turned into a parking lot.

A garden and gazebo lead to the brick sidewalk. Follow it to the four-story red brick building in white wood trim. Standing under the two-story stacked balconies take in the historical signage. Then go inside. There, it’s easy to get a glimpse of weary travelers from the 1800s warming at the fireplace before checking in at the front desk. Today, guests are greeted by the maître d’ for a table in the restaurant or a guest room upstairs. The staircase off to the side twists upward to what may be described as a living museum.

The 1803 Golden Lamb is Ohio’s oldest hotel and longest continuously running business. Throughout the décor of its 17 rooms is a Shaker influence, including furniture and documents. In its time, a dozen Presidents of the United States have visited or slept there: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, William McKinley, James A. Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and William Henry Harrison. Several famous authors like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe were also guests. Other notables include Neil Armstrong and Annie Oakley. The upper floor guest rooms are decorated in period-related furnishings and have plaques at the doorways showing which famous person slept there. It also provides anecdotes about their stay.

Although a room is named for George W. Bush, he did not sleep in it. His mother Barbara Bush did. However, Bush was the only sitting President to visit the Golden Lamb.

Imagine sleeping where so many Presidents (or their mothers) have slept. Roam the same halls as literary icons. Of course, modern amenities now coexist with the authenticity of the hotel’s past: air conditioning, television, and hey, a private bathroom. The old stairs connecting the four stories continue to get their wear because the modern upgrades did not include an elevator. And the ambiance is better off for its omission.

Some guests have returned …or never left. The well-documented hauntings of the Golden Lamb are on display for the public to see. A guest room doorway has been replaced with glass viewing windows with “SARAH’S ROOM” identifying it from above. The ghost inside seems to have a temper. Staff and guests report hearing foot-stomping tantrums or things moved in the fourth-floor room from time to time. Those who have seen the ghost say that it is a girl who wears a white nightgown.

But her identity is unresolved. It may be the spirit of Sarah Stubbs who moved into the hotel with her mom after her father, a co-owner, died. They lived there with her uncle, the surviving owner of the hotel. Since Stubbs didn’t die there – in fact she lived to be 79 years old – others believe the specter to be that of someone who did. The more likely spirit is that of the 12-year-old Eliza Clay who died there in 1825 from a raging fever. She was the daughter of President John Quincy Adams’ Secretary of State Henry Clay. Others have died at the hotel and tales of their hauntings also persist. A lawyer succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a room there in 1871. He had recreated a scene to demonstrate his defendant’s case in a nearby courtroom. Unfortunately, the gun used was loaded and accidentally discharged and shot the lawyer. His name was Clement Vallandingham.

Today, the historic Golden Lamb hotel has a large restaurant with multiple dining rooms and the Black Horse Tavern. There are three public dining rooms and five private dining rooms. Much of the menu is locally sourced. It offers American fare and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also a gift shop featuring Golden Lamb merchandise, artwork, jewelry, glassware, tea, and things for the garden. A special nook sells Christmas-related items year-round.

Plan a stay, meal, or tour at Ohio’s oldest hotel and longest continuously running business at GoldenLamb.com and see what history has in store for you.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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