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92. Oberlin Inn

Northeast corner of College and Main

When the present Oberlin Inn replaced its 87-year-old predecessor in 1955, the town’s main intersection was radically transformed and “motel moderne” – a low budget adaption of the flat-roofed International Style – arrived in Oberlin.

The inn is the fourth hotel to occupy the site and lends continuity to the town’s long tradition of plain living for its guiests. Brewster Pelton launched the tradition in 1833 with a small log cabin that included space for “strangers.” Two years later he built a larger frame hotel. When this burned in 1866 it was replaced in 1868 by the three-story brick hotel that lasted till 1954, providing visitors in college secretary Donald Love’s words with “mid-Victorian charm and a certain frontier indifference to baths.” Marx Straus, Oberlin’s rich immigrant clothing merchant, deeded this building to the college in 1895

Around the turn of the century, the hotel combined with its neighbors to provide the village with a main crossroads of authentic urban vitality. Brick business blocks walled the side-walks on three corners; a village bandstand near the Historic Elm enlivened summer shopping crowds with music and pranks; popcorn and canady stands did a thriving corner business; and electric interurban trolleys pumped people in and out of town in large numbers. Psychologically, Oberlin was closer to big-city America than it ever has been since.

But as early as 1914 plans were underway for major change. Charles Martin Hall, Henry Churchill King, and architect Cass Gilbert laid plans for a new complex on the hotel site—a multipurpose community civic center surrounding a modern inn and restaurant. Two world wars and the Great Depression killed that project.

The inn, completed in 1955, designed by Eldredge Snyder under tight cost constrains imposed by college trustees, substituted brick, glass, and cinderblock austerity for the sagging charm of its predecessor. A warmer more handsome, and nicely appointed east addition, designed by Joseph Ceruti and completed in 1970, vastly enhanced the inn’s appeal.


Blodgett, Geoffrey. Oberlin Architecture, College and Town: a Guide to Its Social History. Oberlin, OH: Oberlin College, 1985. 40-41. Print.

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