By Ferne Reilich, Curator
The Curator, January/February 2009
Have you ever gone driving along West Whipp road on a sunny, summer day and noticed a lovely white, brick house built close to the road, on the south side of the street? That has been my experience many times and I always wondered about the house our records designated as the Townsley Tavern. If you were one of the hardy people who braved the weather to go on the Landmark Home Tour in December, you were able to peek inside this charming old house that is on the Ohio Historic Inventory list. Let me tell you what our records say about it.
The name Townsley Tavern came from Peter Townsley who bought the property in 1825, when that section of Whipp Road was part of the busy community of Woodbourne. The previous owner of the land had been Samuel Broadaway and Peter paid him $17 for Lot 29. The story goes that Peter then borrowed $100 from three other men and built the building. It was a one and a half story structure with two rooms downstairs and two very small rooms upstairs. Shortly after the building was completed, Peter opened the tavern downstairs and kept the business going until 1835. It was warmed by a large fireplace and must have been a welcoming spot for Woodbourne residents on a cold winter evening.
Originally, the tavern had two doors and two windows which have been replaced with two beautiful bay windows. In the 1940’s the house was modernized and wings were built. The present front door is now located in the west wing. At that same time, a porch which had been added sometime earlier was removed. Then the unusual “eyebrow windows” in the small bedrooms upstairs were revealed, and can still be seen today. In 1957, the home was purchased by James H. Gates, a vice president at Reynolds and Reynolds. When Mr. Gates died, his wife continued to live there until the turn of the new century. Mrs. Gates was quoted as saying, “ I enjoyed everything about the house”. It was in 2003 that the building was listed for auction and the present owners purchased it. That was a stroke of good luck for the old tavern, as much hard work and loving care has gone into the restoration. While walking through you can see the random width, white oak floors, which have been carefully refinished, as well as others of slate and marble. The kitchen countertops are quarried soapstone, custom fitted to handmade cherry cabinets. In the historic front room you can often find a cheerful fire burning in the original fireplace. If you look through the bay windows you can see the sturdy, stone gate posts which were constructed from the stones of a crumbling wall. The old tavern has been given a new chapter in its life.
How fortunate we are in this community to have talented people that preserve and improve historic properties. So the next time you drive along West Whipp Road , keep your eyes open for the charming, white house called Townsley Tavern.