Granville has often been described as a “quintessential New England village, transplanted to Ohio.” But like a Norman Rockwell painting, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye.
Member of Denison’s faculty and long-time board member for the Granville Historical Society, Philosophy Professor Tony Lisska often offers guided tours of the village during Reunion Weekend. We tagged along on one to see and hear what the master storyteller, who helped write a two-volume history of the village for its bicentennial celebration, had to share.
Formally established in 1806 by settlers from Granville, Mass, its Ohio namesake was designed to be reminiscent of typical a New England town.
In its early years, Granville was described as a “rough and tumble place,” due to an excess supply of the village’s main product: corn liquor.
Perhaps in response to its major industry, the village was the site of several religious reform movements in the 1820s and 1830s, which successfully reshaped the community ethos. Leaders of the Baptist faith took note of Granville’s transformation and established a seminary to educate its clergy in town. The Granville Theological Seminary eventually grew to become Denison University, though the college is no longer affiliated with any particular faith.
Among other notable landmarks, Lisska offered commentary on Monomoy Place, the former home to Denison’s president, and the Old Academy Building, which Lisska said is the most important building in Granville’s history. It was in that building that the Black Codes, a series of laws meant to restrict the rights of freed African Americans, were declared unconstitutional in the mid-1800s.
Local gathering spots that didn’t make the video include Whit’s Frozen Custard, where both Denison students and Granville residents wander after dinner and emerge in a state of bliss, and the Granville Inn, built in 1924. The inn is one of three buildings in Granville designed by prominent Columbus architect Frank L. Packard. Packard also redesigned the Bryn Du Mansion, just up the road on Newark-Granville Road, and the charming Granville Public Library.