Restaurant, pub, pavilion and treehouses make for special experience
By Jane Beathard
SPRINGFIELD — Western Ohio history meets modern hospitality at the Simon Kenton Inn, located just north of Springfield on Urbana Road.
Founder and innkeeper Theresa Siejack put both her heart and retirement savings into acquiring and restoring the Federalist-style house and four-and-a-half surrounding acres in 2005.
It was an admitted gamble. But Siejack believed in the project — and herself.
The Maryland native was familiar with hostelry, having bought, restored and sold three previous bed and breakfast businesses.
“Each had some historic significance,” she said.
Siejack was working full-time as a flight nurse at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base when she discovered the 187-year-old Clark County house, situated on land once owned by legendary frontiersman Simon Kenton.
Kenton, a contemporary of Daniel Boone and Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, acquired 50,000 acres between Springfield and Urbana in the early 1800s. But he lost it all to the U.S. government in a land dispute.
Kenton’s misfortune proved beneficial to members of the Hunt family of Princeton, N.J. They acquired a parcel of Kenton’s old homestead in 1823 and built a stately brick house on the property in 1828. Remarkably, the home remained in the Hunt family for the next 160 years.
A second owner held title briefly until Siejack came along 10 years ago with checkbook in hand.
“It was a bit run down,” she said of the brick structure.
Between April and September in 2005, Siejack spent $250,000 of her own money to turn the Hunt house into a classic bed and breakfast with five upstairs bedrooms and modern baths.
The carefully restored B&B was a hit with travelers and especially with passing cyclists on the adjoining Simon Kenton Trail.
Four years later, Siejack began a $1 million expansion that included a full-service restaurant and pub, patio and additional guest rooms.
It was the height of the Great Recession and the plucky entrepreneur was once again rolling the dice.
“Building costs were low, but you could get a loan,” she said. “I had to gamble it all.”
That gamble paid off for Siejack.
The pub and restaurant quickly became a favorite community gathering spot and a place for Springfield-based companies to host corporate meetings.
In 2010, Siejack added a party pavilion that accommodates up to 350 guests. She roofed the pavilion two years later in an effort to attract and cater weddings, graduations, reunions, showers and similar events.
In 2012, she also broke ground on three treehouses, creating a total of 15 overnight accommodations on the property.
Today, the Simon Kenton Inn employs 18 local people and hosts more than 20,000 visitors annually, Siejack said with pride.
She remains a hands-on innkeeper, serving a continental breakfast daily to overnight guests and offering weekly specials in the dining room and pub.
What would Simon Kenton think of his old homestead?
“He would be thrilled,” Siejack said. “He loved people and especially visitors.”
She likes to quote Kenton’s familiar greeting for those stopping by his cabin: “Take seats. Take seats. I am right glad to see ye.”
Simon Kenton’s Hush Puppies
Barbara S. Lehmann, of Urbana, and a descendant of the Shawnee Indians, gave this recipe to Theresa Siejack.
1/2 cup sifted flour
1-1/2 cups corn meal
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 onion, minced
Sift together dry ingredient. Add egg, milk and onion, stirring lightly. Drop a teaspoonful of batter for hush puppy into hot fat, frying a few at a time until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Yields 2 dozen.
Jane is a retired staff writer for The Madison Press in London, and the retired media relations manager of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.