Indiana’s Innkeepers featuring Grant Street Inn

By Leah Arenz 

Innkeeper Paul Wagoner came to CFC properties in 2004 after thinking he was finished with hotel management. He stumbled upon the opportunity to run the inn while applying to rent an apartment in Bloomington with CFC Properties, the real estate arm of Cook Group. “It wasn’t anything that I was aware of,” Wagoner said, “but onenI stepped into. It was pretty amazing, because I had stepped away from the hotel industry, really had no desire to go back… but this is a whole different ball game.”

Because many Indiana University departments utilize the Grant Street Inn for visitors, the guests are often diverse and sometimes acclaimed. “We can go through one week where everybody in here is from Eastern Europe, and then all of a sudden the weekend starts and you have a power-cycling group or a mandolin camp in here,” Wagoner said. Beside the mosaic fireplace in the Ziegler house is a photograph
of Danny Glover, star of The Good Catholic, who stayed in the Grant Street Inn while the movie was filming in Bloomington last year.

Wagoner said that the best part of the Grant Street Inn, though, is building relationships with long-term guests. “We like to be kind of a home away from home, especially for the IU parents, IU alumni…

It’s kind of like they have a bedroom in our house.” Many of these guests come to stay in the inn multiple times each Fall for IU football and basketball games.

“Graduation weekend is somewhat bittersweet for us,” Wagoner said. “All of those parents that you’ve known for… years, their kids are graduating and you’ll never see them again… We still have occasional parents who… I sometimes get a call from or an email from just to check to see who’s all still there and what’s going on.”

The most popular weekend for the Grant Street Inn every year is indisputably IU Graduation weekend. Because approximately 250 requests are received for only 40 rooms, selection occurs in a lottery. Starting in January, previous guests may enter the drawing for the next year’s graduation.

Wagoner has been with the Grant Street Inn for 13 years. “He’s always willing to help out and put other people first before himself. And he’s just got one of those personalities where he can make you feel really comfortable,” Rebecca Johnson said. “All of the staff at the Grant Street Inn are great. They really care about one another, which in affect, rolls over making guests feel welcome and at home.”

Bloomington’s signature bed and breakfast, the Grant Street Inn, occupies a block of Grant Street between 7th and 8th street sporting an unmistakable yellow exterior. Behind the front door of the main Ziegler house, the details of the 1880s Victorian once-rental house come to life. The original parquet hardwood floor remains, and other parts of the house such as two pocket doors now serve as decor inside guest rooms. The Ziegler house is populated with a multitude of antiques, each with a unique story.

The Ziegler house was built in 1883 by William Rogers, Dean of the Indiana University School of Law. The house is entrenched in Bloomington history, as it was later owned by William Graham, builder of the Graham Hotel, and William N. Showers, owner of Showers Brothers Furniture Factory.

By the 1990s, it served as a 7-apartment student rental house behind First Presbyterian Church. When it became fearful that the house might have to be torn down because the church was in need of more space, Bloomington Restorations approached Bill and Gayle Cook.

The Cooks bought the house for $1 and moved it two and a half blocks east to it’s current location. The Grant Street Inn opened in 1991 with 14 rooms. After a successful opening, nearby structures, today known as the Annex and Buttercup Cottage were converted from apartments to additional guest rooms increasing the room count to 24. Then in 2012, it added 16 more rooms across Grant Street. The newest building is LEED certified, with a more modern feel, but remains connected to the main house with replicated trim and the same iconic yellow exterior.

The Grant Street Inn has “become quite a tradition in downtown Bloomington,” Wagoner said. It remains a constant force in the face of many recent hotel developments. Wagoner said, “We represent local downtown Bloomington.”

With a total of 40 guest rooms, the Grant Street Inn offers 40 unique experiences. Part of the hometown charm is that each room has a completely different feel than the next. “No two are alike,” Innkeeper Paul Wagoner said. “It’s an experience. People find their favorite room or their favorite building. We don’t have 40 rooms that all look like a standard hotel.”

But the Grant Street Inn doesn’t just have 40 different rooms, because “they’re constantly turning them over and freshening them up,” CFC Properties Marketing Specialist Rebecca Johnson said. The most recent renovation occurred in the two-room cottage behind the Zielgar house.”Before, the Cottage boasted a dark and moody atmosphere of chocolate and sea greens. Now, following the remodel, it’s a palette of bright whites and soft creams where it feels very open and refreshing. So, if you stayed in the Cottage before and stay in it again today, you’ll have a whole new experience!”

Complimentary homemade breakfast buffet is provided each morning in the dining area between the Ziegler house and the Gilstrap house. A wrap-around porch encircles the exterior of these two houses, complete with a small stream and several white rocking chairs. Wagoner said some days, “all the rocking chairs are filled, all the people are out with a glass of wine or a glass of iced tea… They all get to know one another because they’re all on the rocking chairs together.”

For guests who haven’t found their favorite room or want to experience new rooms, the Grant Street Inn has recently started offering a “mystery room.” The inn will choose your room, as an opportunity to “build the anticipation before you get to your getaway,” Johnson said.

Grant Street Inn
310 N Grant St, Bloomington, IN 47408 (812) 334-2353
Grantstreetinn.com