Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring / Summer of History - Civil War 150 - Lake County, Ohio The Rider Inn

US Route 20 is one of the longest roads in the United States.  A stop at 792 Mentor Avenue in Painesville, Ohio will find you directly in front of The Rider Inn, an inn with nearly two centuries of local history and lore.  In its earliest days, it served as a restaurant and inn along the busy Oregon Trail.  Some decades later it served as a hospitality stop along the rough stagecoach road between Buffalo and Cleveland.  During the mid- 1800's it was a secret stop along the way to freedom for thousands of slaves.  A light in the uppermost southern part of the building served as a sign to slaves that refuge in the basement was possible.  Additionally, returning Union Soldiers used the Inn as a retreat during the 1860's. Designated as an official Underground Railroad stop, the Rider Inn history also features a bit of local lore.  Ghosts from the Civil War have been rumored to haunt the premises at night.  Suzanne, a former innkeeper's wife has also been reported by guests as a nighttime visitor. A brief history of Rider's Inn follows.

Moses Cleaveland (1796) and Charles Parker were the earliest reported visitors to NE Ohio and the Lake County area.  Parker, a surveyor was the first known local settler .  In 1805, a mail stagecoach service was established in the region.  A log cabin was built in Unionville (Madison).  In 1818 the cabin was replaced by The Old Tavern and is still standing today.  Joseph Rider came to Ohio in 1803.  Rider's Inn was established in 1812.  Over the years, the tavern expanded, providing accommodations and food for travelers. From 1812-1832,  Rider ran his business from the single floor dwelling.  1832 saw reknown and local architect Jonathan Goldsmith erect a second floor to the structure.  In 1865 the building was converted into a private residence.  The Rider Family ( 19 children) operated the hostelry until 1902 when it fell on hard times.  New owner George Randall bought the Inn. This New Yorker used the Inn for dining and a speakeasy. A remodeling took place in 1913 and again in 1922 when a dining room was added. The enlarged dining room made traditional Sunday Stagecoach Breakfasts popular.   Elaine Crane and Elizabeth Roemisch took ownership of the Rider Inn in 1988.  The tunnels used by escaping slaves are unsafe to use today but are still there.  The second floor ballroom (circa 1832) is a distant memory.  The local ghost stories persist.  The history of the country inn, its local lore and its  tavern dining experiences (weekday or Sunday Stagecoach) await your visit.

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