Hiram – When Ed and Jenny Backos from Newbury first pulled up to the historic Hiram Inn at the corner of State Routes 82 and 700 in Hiram, they realized that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You see, since the Inn closed in the fall of 2015, the exterior of the establishment had seen better days. Severe winter weather had taken its toll, leaving peeling paint, faded shutters, and a parking lot in disrepair. But once the couple ventured inside, they were, “blown away by how the inside looked,” shared Ed Backos, the Inn’s new operations manager. The updated interior featured a combination of warm furnishings and updated amenities, coupled with unique historic pieces, and only needed minor touch-ups. He and his wife are thrilled to help the Hiram Inn begin a new chapter when the historic establishment will once again open its doors to weary travelers.
The Inn’s story began nearly 200 years ago, when the original structure was built. At that time, what was then known as the Young House was built on land given by Daniel Tilden to his daughter Lydia, who was married to Thomas Fitch Young. Their home was built in 1824, with additions built during later years. With that additional space, the Young family transformed their home into the original Inn at the site, which was known as Young’s Exchange.
Young’s Exchange provided accommodations to visitors who came to attend commencement ceremonies. In addition, the post office was located there, since Thomas Young served as the village’s first postmaster as well as the town clerk. A central structure in college and village life, the house was also the site of the first Portage County Library. The house was also home to four generations of the Young family. The last owner, Clinton T.J. Young, expressed the wish that “…the Young house will have a growing place in the life of Hiram.” In 1992, Hiram College purchased the house from his estate. The Young house is the second oldest home in Hiram.
The purchase of the house and its transformation into The Hiram Inn was made possible by the generosity of Robert F. Merwin and Betty MacKay Merwin of Erie, Pennsylvania. Both Mr. and Mrs. Merwin were 1936 graduates of Hiram College, and when Robert served on the Hiram College’s Board of Trustees, he lamented that visitors to the college had to drive to Aurora in find overnight accommodations. In 1995, the Merwins gave a $1.2 million gift to the college to renovate and expand the Young house, creating what became known as the Hiram Inn.
“People who stay here would love to know the unique history, acknowledged Ed Backos. “Every room is different.” Returning the historic Inn back to its former glory has been a family affair, as Ed and Jenny enlisted the help of their college-age kids in the project. As the family worked, they received visits from many curious neighbors. One such visitor commented, “This place looks better now than in the 20 years I’ve lived here.”
“Every person we’ve met here has be a joy,” Ed marveled. For example, one of the rooms in the old section of the Inn is named after Jesse Brown Pounds, an acclaimed hymn writer born in Hiram. Thanks to a neighbor and local history buff, a book of Ms. Pounds hymns is now among the unique furnishings of this room that guests will enjoy. Many residents have donated other historical artifacts to the Inn, including the Young family who donated an antique piano which sits in the library. The grandchildren of another Hiram resident bequeathed a Regina Music Box, roughly the size of a grandfather clock, to the College, which owns the Inn. This unique antique sits near the front desk, and features a treasure-trove of songs printed on giant metal disks contained in its base.
But the historic Inn isn’t a relic of the past. Rooms are equipped with private bathrooms, and some feature Jacuzzi tubs. The Buckeye Home Suite overlooks a private balcony and features a fireplace as well. The Inn also boasts flat screen TVs and Wi-Fi, an outdoor deck and public balcony, as well as ample conference space for small groups.
And since the Inn holds a liquor license, the bar area with its outdoor deck will provide guests and the community alike with a unique venue for an evening out. “We think the Inn will be a nice addition to the community,” explained Ed.
The website will be up soon, giving potential visitors the opportunity to book rooms online at thehiraminn.com. For more information, call (330) 569-6000.