Columbus Public House: Over 200-Year-Old Inn Back In Business In Chenango County
Closed and empty for nearly two decades, a 227-year-old inn is back in business. The Columbus Hotel, now named The Columbus Public House, sits on State Route 80, just outside Sherburne in the tiny town of Columbus, population 975. The restaurant officially opened for business in October of last year.
“I had someone stop the other day who said you can walk into any new restaurant and it’s just a restaurant, but he said it was cool sitting in a building that was 200 years old and just to think about what was going on in here over the last 200 years," says owner Edsall Hodges.
The Columbus Public House at 4301 State Route 80 outside of Sherburne.
The building was originally built around 1793 as a stop on the stagecoach line from Cortland to Albany. It's thought to be the last operating business from that stagecoach line.
A photo from the 1800s of The Columbus Public House.
The back half of the building was added on sometime around the Civil War. The addition included a dance hall on the second floor.
Taking me upstairs, Hodges showed me the room. Blue paint and stencils still remain, though parts of the walls and ceiling are crumbling. An eagle is painted high on one wall, carrying a banner in its beak with the words "Union For Ever" scrolled across it.
A "Union For Ever" painting still remains on the wall of a Civil War-era dance hall inside the inn.
According to local lore, the room on the second floor was meeting space for the Union militia and outlaws.
“It’s reported the Loomis gang used to frequent it," says Hodges.
The Loomis gang, of course, was known around Chenango and Madison Counties for their massive horse theft operation.
That upstairs room is closed to the public right now, but there are plans to try and restore it to be used in the future.
Hodges, a veteran of the local food service industry, bought the building about nine years ago. His plan was to use the kitchen for catering. However, he says the more he discovered about the building, it became "just too cool" to keep it closed to the public.
“It kind of just turned into opening a restaurant," remembers his daughter, Emma Hodges, who manages the kitchen and dining room.
Emma says her dad also worked as a builder, so his two careers collided with this project. Wanting everything done the right way, he did it himself with help from friends and family.
After years of working on it, the finished product holds many pieces of the Hodges' family. Emma made light fixtures out of her grandmother's canning jars, her brother made candle sticks for the front windows, and the whole family poured hours of work into laying floorboards, fixing ceilings, and painting.
Emma says the reality of the restaurant opening the business didn't really set in until the delivery trucks showed up.
“Since he owned it for so long, I was like I don’t know if it will happen.. But once we started getting food trucks in here, I was like wow this is real," says Emma.
Inside The Columbus Public House.
The Hodges say the community support has been overwhelming. For Emma, who can't remember the building being open during her lifetime, says hearing the childhood memories of their guests is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“Everyone who comes here is says 'oh I used to come here 20 years ago' and they tell us their story about what it used to look like and it’s fun to listen to everyone’s stories," says Emma.
Locals are happy to have this piece of their history back and the Hodges are glad to be its keepers.