Columbus Stories and Tips

The Worthington Inn: If Walls Could Talk

The Worthington Inn, Olde Worthington, OH. Photo, Columbus, Ohio

The Worthington Inn and its Seven Stars Restaurant is a superbly genteel operation no matter which way you slice it. The Inn is undeniably the most gracious and special accommodations in the city. The restaurant consistently rates among Columbus’ top ten and is most beloved by the locals. As the second oldest operating business in Ohio, The Worthington Inn has been feeding and bedding weary travelers for over 150 years. It now ranks as one of America’s most distinguished small hotels. The story begins in 1816 when Rensselear Cowles of Connecticut came to Worthington and constructed the earliest part of this building as his residence in 1831. After his death is 1842, the property was purchased by Theodore Fuller, enlarged and turned into a traveler’s inn. From this point on, it has been a hotel of various names: the Union Hotel, the Central House and most recently the Worthington Inn. What you see architecturally are various expansions of the original building including a 1901 Victorian façade and mansard roof. The current owners purchased and completely renovated the Inn in 1982 and went to great measures to be as true to the period as possible. A hodge-podge of 19th century architectural features and furnishings are brilliantly pulled together. People are often surprised to learn that not much more than the doors, a staircase and a few fireplaces are original to the building. The front doors of the High Street entrance and the dining room’s doors and fireplace mantels date to the original structure. There are several other features worth noting; many salvaged from landmarks around Columbus. The rosettes on the ceiling of the Seven Stars Pub came from the former Columbus Union Train Station. The front windows of the hotel lobby (c.1822) and the back bar in the Pub are preserved from the Neil House Hotel which was destroyed by fire in 1860. Door panels and casings from the original 1800’s Franklin County Courthouse comprise the wall paneling in the Pub and the Van Loon Ballroom. Not everything is local, however. The lobby’s 1830’s secretary is an English piece and the cherry registration desk was originally an 1850’s store counter. The 1880’s bar in the Seven Star Pub was made in Philadelphia and its marble countertop is used in the Wine Room’s tap bar. The ‘dungeon door’ leading into the Wine Room has traveled the farthest. This heavy, bolted door came from the Bastille (the infamous French prison destroyed in 1789) in Paris. Now, back to the future. The Worthington Inn’s 26 uniquely decorated guestrooms are well priced at $125-$150 per night. The oversized rooms are elegantly appointed with antiques and include nice extras such as turn down service with Godiva chocolates, Frette linens, bathrobes, complimentary wireless internet and a daily newspaper. Breakfast is available in the Seven Stars Restaurant but it is not included in the room rate. This should be no bother as the hotel is right in the heart of Olde Worthington; just a few steps from several restaurants and coffee shops. You can read more about nearby eateries in the Restaurants chapter, but you do not have to leave the premises to get a good meal. People come from all over town to dine at this venerable lodge. The carefully crafted menu, with its French and Italian influences, offer sophisticated "new twists on old classics." The wine list, which has been developed to match the food, has been nationally recognized with an "Award of Excellence" from The Wine Spectator. The chef uses locally grown and produced ingredients for his amazing scratch cooking. Even the breads and desserts are made from scratch on site. The eclectic menu changes seasonally, but if you have the opportunity to dine here during the autumn, don’t miss the very popular red oak salad with its mix of sweet, tart, nutty, and earthy flavors.

The atmosphere is refined and the dress code is defined as dressy-casual. The friendly staff is service-oriented but not stuffy. The Inn’s reputation for fine food and hospitality adds to the misconception that it’s super-expensive. The average entree is about $25 per person and well worth it! It is a shame so many people wait for special occasions to experience the Seven Stars Restaurant at the Worthington Inn.

If you prefer a more casual ambience, the pub serves food and plays host to live music on Thursday nights, during which they have a happy hour. Their Sunday brunch is famous for its huge offerings of shellfish, waffles, eggs, cheese, and desserts. Special buffets on holidays like Mother’s Day and Easter are very busy and require reservations well in advance.

During the summer months, you can take your meals outdoors onto the front porch or brick courtyard, where everyone along High Street enjoys the live jazz and classical music. A little secret: if weather forces you indoors and you want the most romantic (or private) spot in the house, ask for Table 24. It is tucked in a perfect little nook in the corner of the back dining room.

If you are looking for a place to hold a small reception, business meeting, or cocktail party, the Worthington Inn has several private rooms loaded with character. The Van Loon Ballroom, with its European crystal chandelier, can accommodate up to 120 guests and has its own private bar. The Lewis Room can accommodate up to 40 people and adjoins a lounge with a fireplace; cozy, overstuffed chairs; and a Victorian bar. The Cowles Room can hold up to 30 guests and was the master bedroom in the original private residence. The Formal Room, located at street level, was once the parlor and retains an original fireplace. It can accommodate up to 20 guests. Last, but not least, is the Wine Room that can host up to 20 people around its bar and handmade Amish table.

Whether you stay at the hotel or are just popping around for dinner, there is no charge for parking in the lot behind the inn. Various hotel and dining packages are listed on the website and should be reserved by phone. Brunch is served on Sundays from 11:30am to 3pm, and the items vary from week to week. Pub fare is available in the bar or on the patio from 3pm to 10pm Monday through Saturday. Reservations are always recommended for dinner.

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