The Golden Lamb traces its roots back to a two-story log-cabin tavern owned by Jonas Seaman at the hotel’s present site at the northwest corner of Broadway and Main Street. The Golden Lamb’s Lebanon Room marks the spot of this first cabin.
On December 23, 1803, Seaman spent $4 for a license “to keep a house of Public Entertainment” on land he had purchased from Lebanon’s first settler, Ichabod Corwin.
At this time — since many pioneer settlers could not read — it was common for a business to hang a colorful sign picturing a recognizable object. Lebanon already had The Black Horse, so Seaman soon posted a sign of a golden lamb.
Seaman’s wife, Martha, served food at the tavern, providing meals of deer, bear or wild turkey with cornbread. For 25 cents, customers could take a seat at a long, communal table and dine on meals served on wooden or pewter plates. They could spend the night for half that much, but the price increased sharply if they wanted a private room.
Business was good but Seaman found himself in financial difficulty. In 1806, lawsuits were brought against a number of settlers for payment still owed on their land. Seaman in turn sued those in debt to him, but was unable to collect as much as he owed. Three years later he was forced to hold a public sale and gave up ownership of the tavern.
In 1815 The Golden Lamb moved into a two-story brick building built by Ichabod Corwin. The original structure today serves as the front lobby and Dickens Dining Room. In 1844 a third story was built. A three-story wing was added to the north in 1854, including what is now the Shaker and Buckeye dinning rooms. 1878 saw the fourth story added to accommodate the workers who would bring the railroad to Lebanon in 1882. The gift shop and the Lamb’s Black Horse Tavern were added in 1964.
The Golden Lamb went by many names in the 1800s and early 20th century. It was called the Ohio and Pennsylvania Hotel, the Bradley House, the Stubbs House and the Ownly Hotel. The last one was so named because Ownly Furman was the proprietor. It was most commonly known as The Lebanon House during this period.
In 1926, Robert H. Jones bought the property and transformed it from a run-down boarding house into a nationally known historic hotel. In addition to restoring the building and furnishing it with what would turn out to be museum-quality antiques, Jones and his wife, Virginia, restored the hotel’s original name: The Golden Lamb.
Robert Jones turned over the operation of The Golden Lamb business to Lee and Michael Comisar in 1969. The two brothers were the owners of the Maisonette restaurant in Cincinnati. The Jones family, however, retained ownership of the building.
During The Golden Lamb’s more than 200-year history, 12 U.S. presidents are said to have visited the inn. Nine of them came before they were president, while two came after their presidency. The only president to come while in office was George W. Bush. On May 4, 2004 he visited Lebanon as part of his 2004 reelection campaign. He was introduced to the crowd of 2,500 in front of The Golden Lamb by then U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, grandson of Robert and Virginia Jones. After his speech, the president visited the hotel and was shown the room that would be called the George W. Bush Room. It was the one in which his mother, Barbara Bush, spent the night on April 12, 1988.
In 2006 ownership and operation of The Golden Lamb business was turned over to Stevens Hospitality, a Blue Ash-based hotel-management company run by the father-and-son team of Steven W. and Steven D. Mullinger. Robert and Virginia Jones’s grandchildren — Wym Portman, Rob Portman and Ginna Portman Amis — own the historic building. Together, the Mullingers and Portmans invested more than $7 million in renovations, including a new kitchen.