The Golden Lamb: From a $4 investment to 200-plus years of service in Lebanon

The Golden Lamb, one of the oldest continuously running hotels in the country, has been operating for more than 200 years.

The origins of the historic hotel dates to 1803 when New Jersey native Jonas Seaman plunked down $4 for a license to “keep a house of Public Entertainment” on Broadway in the brand new village of Lebanon.

Seaman built a log cabin where he and his wife, Martha, provided travelers with deer, bear, wild turkey and old-fashioned apple butter in front of an open heath according to research on the Golden Lamb done by John Zimkus, historian with the Warren County Historical Society.

In 1815 new owner Ichabod Corwin expanded and built a two story brick building. The tavern became known not only for its meals but as a gathering place for the community. William Wiles, a local cabinet maker, constructed a stage and the tavern became Lebanon’s first theater.

Over the years the hotel changed owners and names numerous times but travelers continued to arrive in Lebanon by stage coach, locomotive and then by automobile, always making the Golden Lamb their destination.

“The Golden Lamb is an icon in the community and the state,” said Bill Kilimnik, general manager of the Golden Lamb. “Very few places throughout the United States are fortunate to enjoy this legacy that many generations have worked hard to achieve.”

Sharp shooter Annie Oakley and astronaut Neil Armstrong are among the famous who have visited the hotel. Literary greats Harriet Beecher Stowe, Samuel Clemens and Charles Dickens also visited.

Dickens, who arrived by stage coach wearing a beaver hat, brown frock coat and a huge fuzzy scarf, had dinner at the Golden Lamb, which was then called the Bradley House. Demanding a drink on arrival he was informed that he had arrived at a temperance hotel, according to Zimkus’ narrative.

The English author described his irritation in “American Notes for General Circulation,” a travelogue about his trip to North America. “We dine soon after with the boarders in the house and have nothing to drink but tea and coffee. As they are both 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,” he wrote.

The Golden Lamb has also played host to 12 United States presidents before, during and after their time in office.

John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth president of the United States, was the first and visited the hotel in 1843 while on his way to dedicate the cornerstone of the Cincinnati Observatory. The most recent was George W. Bush who visited May 4, 2004 and is the only president to visit while serving in the White House.

In 1926 Robert Jones took ownership and is the longest-serving innkeeper. Today his grandchildren, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and his siblings, own the Golden Lamb.

“Many would say the Golden Lamb is the heartbeat of our community,” said Kilimnik. ” It’s where many people from across the region have fond memories linked to their past.”

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