Serving the National Road traveler in Ohio

As long as there have been roads, there have been businesses that served the traveler. During the National Road’s early days, horses carried travelers or pulled them along in wagons or coaches. Inns dotted the road, providing a place for the traveler to eat and drink, care for his horses, and sleep. They appeared every ten miles or so – about the distance a traveler could expect to cover in a day back then. Several taverns still stand along the National Road, and remarkably a few of them still serve the traveler in some way.

Just west of Zanesville, two inns stand next to each other. The first is the Smith House, built in the 1830s of sandstone block 18 inches thick. It served drovers and the livestock they walked to market.

Smith house

The Headley Inn is next door. Also made of sandstone block, it was completed in 1830. It has six fireplaces. The Headley Inn and the Smith House are both private residences today.

Headley Inn

Lafayette is a small town about 20 miles west of Columbus. It is said that the National Road didn’t extend this far west until about 1837, which is when the Red Brick Tavern opened for business. When the railroad rose to prominence in the 1850s and traffic on the National Road dried up, the tavern’s fortunes fell. It closed in 1859.

Red Brick Tavern

The families that owned it then lived in it and rented portions of it as residences for other families. The third floor was even used as a school for a while. The automobile made the National Road important again in the early 20th century, and so in 1924 the Red Brick’s owners reopened it as a restaurant. It still feeds US 40 travelers today.

Red Brick Tavern

I’ve also photographed and written about National Road inns in Maryland and Indiana. Check them out!

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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4 responses to “Serving the National Road traveler in Ohio”

  1. ryoko861 Avatar

    I always find it amazing that buildings THAT old are still standing! A sign of true craftsmanship! To withstand the tests of time and still keep on standing! They don’t build ’em like they used to!

    I would LOVE to go inside and see what they look like. How much of the original moldings and floorings are still there. The doorknobs-glass? I’m sure some of it had to be renovated to bring them up to code and to provide for modern conveniences, but I’m sure some of the original architecture is still in tact.

    1. Jim Avatar

      There’s an 1834 house on the Michigan Road a couple miles north of my house — built of bricks baked using clay dug on the grounds, and of beams cut from trees felled nearby. I would love to see it on the inside for the same reasons you cite. I wrote about the house a few years ago:

  2. doon po sa amin Avatar

    hey, i’ve seen such buildings and neighborhoods in movies and in books… it seems like the the priest with his noticeable collar would come out any minute, he, he… :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Such buildings are becoming rarer, but you still find them along the old roads in the United States!

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