• Kathryn Houghton

An Inside Look: The Robbins Hunter Museum

The Avery-Downer House and Robbins Hunter Museum is a historical treasure located in Granville, Ohio. It’s furnished with 18th and 19th-century antiques acquired by the original owners as well as collectors. The whole town is rich with history, actually, and one of my favorite things to do is just go strolling through the neighborhood and check out little shops scattered about. I had the pleasure of taking a private tour with the executive director of the museum, Sarah Hottle. She was able to share some of her extensive knowledge of the history of this beautiful home and the families who have lived here.

The house was built in 1842, with additions made in 1875, 1930, and later on during Robbins Hunter’s occupancy. A private residence until 1903, the house was owned by the Avery, Spelman, and Downer families. The house has 27 rooms, only 16 of which are open to the general public.

Portrait of Robbins Hunter Jr

Robbins Hunter Jr made his home here from 1956 to 1979. He had dreamed of preserving the Avery-Downer House as a museum, and, during his 23 years of ownership, he collected antiques to furnish the interior. In August 1981 the house opened as a museum under the demands of his will, and since then the building has gone under extensive restoration.

The Architecture

The guide Benjamin Morgan used when designing the house

The architecture style used throughout the home is Greek revival, and it was built by Benjamin Morgan. There were three different types of columns used, which you can see in the second picture if you look closely. Grecian style was often used in this era, as it hit its popularity around the time.

The Drawing Room

The drawing room is just breathtaking - velvet sofas, intricate golden mirrors, and plenty of portraits to admire. This would be the room where company was entertained. You can just imagine the small parties filled with champagne, music, and laughter now.

Piano situated in drawing room

The carpet in this room in particular is quite intricate. It was made in England, appropriate during the 19th century. It was an 1840s empire reproduction, and I can’t say I’ve seen a pattern like it before.

The Study Room

Bust of George Washington c. 1860

This is my favorite room out of the museum, Dr. Spelman’s study room. He practiced medicine and cupping, so you can find multiple medicinal bottles scattered throughout the room, along with some books. Hunter added to the antiquities during his time like books and arrowheads.

Portrait of Dr. Spelman

There‘s just so much to admire in this room. The globe in the corner of the room was made by cartographer John Cary, who was known for attaching compasses to the legs of his globes. Circa 1800. There’s something about seeing so many old relics all together with wide-open windows streaming light over everything. It creates the perfect atmosphere, and it sparks the want to travel around the world and collect antiquities of my own.

I can’t express enough the attention to detail this house has. This closeup is part of the mirror in the study room beside the Cary globe. It made my ’Age of Sail’ heart happy; sadly I didn‘t find much out about this piece.

The Parlor Room

Portrait of Hunter’s Great Aunt (left) & Grandmother (right)

The parlor room is where the Spelman girls would work on their care packages and letters for the soldiers during the war. The writing desk pictured here is a focal point in this room, with stacks of books and papers laid out. I can definitely picture them writing letters with the windows open, then later using the door in this room to go out and play croquet.

Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, against Ulysses Grant. She sadly doesn’t get the recognition as such in most history books, hence why most people haven’t heard of her. This museum has a small exhibition all about her because she lived in Ohio for a substantial time, and they wish to educate people on the importance Victoria has.

On loan from the Museum of American Finance

Walt Whitman said in regards to Victoria,

“You have given an object lesson to the world.”

Not only did she run for president, but she was also actively involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She was also well known for wearing her hair short, as it was odd during that time period to do so. She made multiple advancements for women and should be remembered for it.

The Octagon Room

The most intricate room of them all! Yes, those are indeed twinkle lights. Robbins Hunter was an eclectic sort of man, and you can definitely see that shine through here!

The setup in this room changes constantly, and you can book this area for events like tea parties or anniversaries. Imagine having afternoon tea in such a strange grand place! Hunter originally used this room to meditate and study; beyond that, there’s no real purpose. But the Grecian architecture really gets to show off here.

Sadly, due to COVID-19, a third of museums in Ohio alone are seriously considering closing their doors. They need our help now more than ever so that we can continue to preserve these historic treasures and learn about the past.

While visiting the Robbins Hunter Museum, we made sure to use all of the available safety precautions such as keeping our masks on around other individuals and staying 6 feet apart from each other.

It’s also in a convenient location in Granville, being on the main road of the village - within walking distance from everything. In the front, there’s a historical sign with some information about the home as well. You can only visit this beautiful museum by appointment for the time being, but I’d strongly recommend doing so!

These are really only a couple of highlights of the artifacts and rooms we toured; there’s still so much to see and uncover for yourself! Even just the village itself is full of hidden gems, and I hope you get to explore them on your own. Be sure to put this place on your list if you ever happen to be close by!

You can book an appointment with the museum here: http://www.robbinshunter.org/

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