A Traditional Favorite of Bloomington’s Past and Present
Bloomington’s signature boutique establishment, the Grant Street Inn, occupies an entire block of Grant Street, between 7th and 8th, showcasing its unmistakable, iconic yellow exterior.
The Ziegler House was built in 1883 by William Rogers, Dean of the Indiana University School of Law. The house is entrenched in Bloomington’s history, as it was later owned by William Graham, builder of the Graham Hotel, and then William N. Showers, owner of Showers Brothers Furniture Factory.
By the 1990s, the Ziegler House served as a 7-apartment student rental house that was once located behind the First Presbyterian Church. Bloomington Restorations approached Bill and Gayle Cook, founders of Cook Medical and CFC Properties, when many feared the house might be torn down because the church needed additional space.
The Cook family agreed to save the house, purchased it for $1, and moved it one and a half blocks east to its current location 310 N. Grant Street, Bloomington IN. The Ziegler House underwent renovation and was connected to the Gilstrap House where the dining room is now located.
Behind the front door of the Ziegler House, where the registration/welcome desk is located, the 1880s Victorian springs to life. The original parquet hardwood floor remains, along with two pocket doors that now serve as floor-to-ceiling headboards in room 23 and 26. The original trim, rosettes, stair rail, and wrap around porch remain, as well. And more recently, just left of the mosaic fireplace in the lobby is a photograph of Danny Glover, an actor who starred in The Good Catholic, who stayed in the Inn while filming nearby in early 2016.
Following Grant Street Inn’s successful opening in 1991 with 14 rooms, nearby structures, today known as The Dargan House and Buttercup Cottage were converted from apartments to additional guest rooms increasing the room count to 24.
Back in 1925 while the mission for racial integration was underway at Indiana University’s (IU) Bloomington campus, Sam Dargan, the first African American graduate of the IU School of Law, offered private housing for black women. The establishment was known as the “Dargan House”. By October of 1949, IU’s campus successfully established integrated residence halls for women.
In 2012, the Grant Street Inn constructed the first LEED-certified building accounting for an additional 16 rooms, known as The Hoosier House. It appeals to those who desire a more modern and eco-friendlier environment. It’s complete with a Tesla charging station, bicycle storage units, a fitness center, solar panels, a water irrigation system, LED lighting, and much more. The newest structure mirrors the original Ziegler House replicating its similar trim style, fish scale cedar shingles, two large front porches with rocking chairs, and of course, radiates the iconic yellow exterior.
Over the years, many have asked the same question, “What is a Hoosier?” Though there have been multiple theories, many factually unsupported, the exact meaning remains unknown. Some of the theories that have surfaced have been: One, the word “Hoosier” was generated from a pioneer’s nightly greeting, “Who’s here?” Two, “Hoosier’s men” described laborers who worked for Sam Hoosier, an Indiana contractor. Three, an “Husher” referred to a man who worked on a riverboat. And, list goes on connecting other variations of “Hoosier” with additional folktales and urban legends.
The Indiana Historical Society revealed one of the more persuasive “Hoosier” insights came from “Walter Havinghurst in The Heartland (1962) when he observed: ‘Whatever its origin, the name of Hoosier has had a lasting appeal for Indiana people and has acquired a quite enviable aura. For more than 100 years, it has continued to mean friendliness, neighborliness, an idyllic contentment with Indiana landscape and life.’”
Wherever the term “Hoosier” generated from, it is certain that it is fully embraced by Indiana natives and is still often used today.
Paul Wagoner, Grant Street Inn’s 15-year Manager, often says, “We are a true representation of Bloomington deeply rooted in the community.” Many come for the nostalgic experience; an IU Alumnus looking to reminisce their old stomping ground, IU parents looking to visit their student on campus, couples and/or business commuters who enjoy strolling 4thStreet’s ethnic restaurant scene, or the Kirkwood Avenue and downtown boutique shops or holiday ambiance, while others claim it’s a ‘home away from home’ that triggers a childhood memory or two.
The Grant Street Inn is a completely unique experience – 5 buildings with 40 different rooms offering 40 different experiences. The rooms range in style from victorian-chic to modern, old-world elegance – no two are alike. Guests enjoy discovering their favorite room and/or building. Even when faced with a number of new and flashy chain developments in the area, the Grant Street Inn remains a highly sought-after destination because it’s a traditional favorite of Bloomington’s past and present time. Once you come, you’ll never want to leave.