Friday, March 13, 2009

The Florentine Hotel

I wanted to share some of the wonderful historic landmarks Germantown has to offer. Above is The Florentine Hotel, known to be the 2nd oldest in the state of Ohio (the oldest being the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio). In 1804, Philip Gunckel and a group of Pennsylvania Deutsch settlers founded Germantown, Ohio. Records show that in 1816 taxes were paid by Philip Gunckel on this structure & it was sold to William Schaeffer in 1832. Since there is no written history of this building, it is assumed that Philip Gunckel, the "founder of Germantown", felt an inn was needed at that point in Germantown. The Florentine Hotel has had 42 owners.

Many important Americans have stayed at The Florentine Hotel, Clement Vallandigham & Henry Clay both drew large crowds when they spoke from the ornate wrought iron balcony. It has always been a resting stop for travelers, the first settlers on horseback and in wagons, then stage coach travelers & in the early 20th century, for passengers on the traction car.

John Finley, who bought the hotel in 1911, was known as the "souvenir" owner. More memorabilia has been found bearing his name than any other owner. Amoung the Finley collectible are tip bags, tokens & bottle openers. Old timers tell us that when Mr. Finley died, his wake was held at the hotel.

Prohibition and inflation took their toll on the old hotel, and by 1940, it was reduced to primarily a stag bar with just a few live-in tenants. Because of an acute state of disrepair, the landmrk was forced to close it's doors in 1974.

The building remained closed until 1976 when it was purchased by two local couples who restored the interior and exterior and reopened for business as a full service restaurant in August 1979.

The Florentine Hotel contains three distinct sections, all built before 1860. As best can be determined, the brick section of the building was built sometime during 1816, and housed the original inn rooms. Using this date, historians were able to determine that The Florentine Hotel is probably the second oldest inn in the State of Ohio. The back part of the tavern was part of the original brick building, 1814 - 1816. It has a fireplace which kept all the travelers confortable during their visits. The Tavern Fireplace - This was on the first floor of the original inn. The food was cooked in the basement fireplace and elevated by dumbwaiter (now the firewood box) to the first floor where the taverlers dined. Center Staircase - One of the hotel's most outstanding features is the beautiful center staircase, crafted of oak, cherry and walnut. Leighty Room - In the dining room just west of the staircase, guests can see the exposed original interior brick nogging. Livery - Immediately East of the Florentine was a livery stable where travelers' horses could be boarded for the night. Outside Balcony - The ornate wrought iron rail balcony on the front of the frame structure was a common decoration for many houses in the area. The gracefully designed accessory, fashioned in the shapes of acorns and oak leaves, was fabricated at the ironworks in the old Oregon District of Dayton.

Information is courtesy of The Twin Valley Heritage Foundation, Germantown, Ohio.

The Florentine Hotel has special meaning to my family. My Great-Grandfather, Ed Blevins, an electrician, wired the Florentine's Sign which adorned the front of the building in the early 1900's. My husband's family was one of the owners during this period, and restored this wonderful piece of history in which my husband assisted.

There are many beautiful historic landmarks in Germantown. When you come to town, be sure to visit them all. The Florentine Hotel is just up the street from us, one block West at 21 W. Market St., call for their dining hours at 937-855-7607.


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