Here’s a local history question for you to try: What’s the oldest building in Middlefield? It’s the building now known as the Century Inn, formerly known as Thompson Tavern or Batavia House.
Now home to Middlefield Historical Society, the Century Inn has reached a major landmark. The main building was erected in 1818 by James Thompson (a member of the family that originally settled Middlefield in 1799). Two hundred years later, we are ready to celebrate this historic building, the oldest standing structure in Middlefield.
The Inn has played a significant role in Middlefield history from its very beginning. The original purpose was to serve travelers on the state road (now Rt. 608) between Warren and Painesville. Middlefield was conveniently located at about the half-way point of what was then typically a two-day journey, and James Thompson seized a golden opportunity by building his structure mere yards away from the state road.
At the time, the building was lauded as the largest and “most commodious” to be found between Warren and Painesville and was said to have space for as many as fifteen travelers and their horses. While nothing remains of barns or stockyards, the main building still stands, albeit hard to believe that fifteen travelers could be packed inside. However, in those days travelers could not expect a private room or even a bed. Although we don’t have specifics about this particular building, at that time most accommodations involved sleeping on the floor on a thin pallet stuffed with straw or corn husks, spending the night in a room with six or more other people who might be perfect strangers, one of the reasons women rarely traveled alone.
We know that the Inn was successful, for it remained in operation for many decades. In addition, it became the center of activities for a growing community. Business and community meetings were held there. Local residents gathered there to vote in elections, men only at that time. Court cases were tried in the building. The historical record includes one incident at the Inn when a local pauper was auctioned off for a year of service in exchange for room and board.
At various times the building later served as a private residence, a boarding house and the location of Shetler Printing and Office Supply, operated by Garland and Margaret Shetler (who are acknowledged within the building). In the early 1980s, Middlefield Historical Society was formed with the initial purpose of preserving the building. With help from the Village of Middlefield and support of local residents, the society was able to pay for the land and buildings within five years, a remarkable feat in itself.
Now it’s time for another celebration as Middelfield Historical Society marks two hundred years of the Century Inn, welcoming it into its third century. Please make time to come and visit on Saturday, July 14 for festivities from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 14979 South State Avenue (Rt. 608) in Middlefield Village (just south of Rt. 87). Leave name and phone number at 440-632-0400 for more information.
Here are a few of the highlights: Official ribbon-cutting and tree dedication at 11:00 a.m.; guided history tours of the building beginning at 1:00 p.m. (please be aware of uneven floors and stairway-only access to the upper story); barrel train rides for the kids beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Kids, color a special page to earn a slip entitling you to a FREE Little Toot ice cream cone (any flavor) at The Depot. The soda fountain will open at 10:00 a.m. for extended hours. Anyone can enter the contest to name the new ice cream flavor; the winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to The Depot.
To mark this special occasion, specially designed T-shirts will be sold for $20 each on that day (limited supply). Be sure to stop inside the Underloft (lower part of the building behind the Century Inn) for tickets to the MHS Chinese auction. Due to the generosity of local merchants, a wonderful selection of prizes is waiting for winners. Also inside the Underloft, local residents will display family heirlooms. Geauga Amish Historical Library will be on hand with samples of their treasures and information on Amish history. Information will be available on a new memorial brick project for the property. A local genealogy expert will be available with advice and help getting started on researching your family tree. Or maybe you have started and got stuck? Stop by and ask questions!
Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and beverages will be sold throughout the day; food sales benefit a new Amish school. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Amish bake sale. Cardinal cheerleaders will be selling hot coffee and fresh donuts. Vendors will be on hand with a variety of goods, including unique handmade items, such as greeting cards and knitted pieces.
Please join us for this significant day in Middlefield history!