Man and woman walking in downtown Versailles by fountain (photo by Matthew Allen)
Ohio Life | Best Hometowns

Best Hometowns 2022: Versailles

This rural village of 2,600 residents offers great schools, a welcoming small-town feel and a longtime local company that helps make the community an inviting place to call home.

The village of Versailles has had a hotel in the center of town since Isaac Marker built his Golden Eagle House there in 1865. A little more than a decade later, the town hall that still stands today rose across the street. The hotel changed names over the years but continuously welcomed travelers. When a fire swept through the village in 1901, destroying six business blocks and 38 homes, the hotel was promptly rebuilt.

From then, it operated for decades, getting a remodel in 1976 and then again when the Renaissance Corp. (a subsidiary of the local Midmark Corp.) purchased the historic property in 1992. The Inn at Versailles opened the following year with 23 suites and rooms, two banquet areas and a new lobby. Michael Anthony’s at the Inn, which operated on the hotel’s first floor, became a favorite local restaurant. But in the fall of 2019, fire struck again.

The hotel was a complete loss, claiming not only one of the village of 2,600 residents’ most storied properties but also a place to gather, be it for a wedding reception or an anniversary dinner at the restaurant.

Midmark, a company that makes medical, dental and veterinary products and moved to the village in 1969, decided to rebuild the property bigger and better than it was before. In the spring of 2022, the elegant and modern Hotel Versailles opened its doors.
      Hotel Versailles exterior (photo by Matthew Allen)

Hotel Versailles opened in 2022. The rebuilt hotel stands on the site of the former Inn at Versailles, which was lost to fire. (photo by Matthew Allen)

“There was a debate,” recalls Mayor Jeff Subler. “Some people wanted them to take the shell [of the old hotel] and rebuild it. But at the end of the day, you still had a shell that was 100 years old. So, they went ahead and made the decision to take it down all the way and rebuild — add another floor, add rooms.”

Silas Creative Kitchen, led by executive chef Aaron Allen, is now housed on the main level. It serves an ever-changing lineup of dishes with ingredients sourced from the hotel’s own Sycamore Bridge Farms, located 3 miles away, and a web of other local producers and purveyors.

The hotel’s beautifully appointed rooms and suites are outfitted with plush robes, an iPad for customers to use during their stay and an affordably priced mini bar packed with local favorites, from Mikesell’s potato chips to Esther Price chocolates to regional craft beers.

Midmark is the village’s largest employer, with 1,050 workers in the Versailles area, and it supports the town in a variety of ways, including its stewardship of the village’s landmark hotel. The way Midmark president and CEO Jon Wells sees it though, the village has been an equally vital component to the company’s success. 
     Intersection of Steffin and Main streets with Versailles Poultry Days sign (photo by Matthew Allen)

The Poultry Days Festival is a long-running tradition in Versailles. It sold a record-setting 35,600 World Famous Chicken dinners in 2022. (photo by Matthew Allen)

“We feel that Midmark is what it is because of Versailles,” he says. “The people here are special. In this area, this region, there’s a very strong work ethic.”  

Weaver Eggs, another of Versailles’ large employers, was founded in 1929 and remains a family-run business to this day. The village was once known as the Poultry Capital of the Midwest due to its chicken and egg production, a fact that has been celebrated each summer since 1951 during the annual Poultry Days Festival.

In 2022, a record-setting 35,600 World Famous Chicken dinners were sold during the event’s three-day run. (The perennial success of the Poultry Days Festival led to the creation of a new amphitheater at Heritage Park, a gathering spot owned by the organization that operates the festival.)

“The festival is a tribute to the past,” Subler says. “Poultry and the poultry-trucking industry, that’s what built this town.”
      Versailles post office and K-12 public school (photos by Matthew Allen)

The village’s post office and K-12 public school are less than a mile from each other. (photos by Matthew Allen)

Versailles, which is pronounced “Ver-sales,” was originally founded as Jacksonville in 1819, but in 1837 the locals decided to rename the city after Versailles, France, but with a distinctly Ohio pronunciation. Located in Darke County, which is situated northwest of Dayton and touches the Indiana border, Versailles sits within a vast agricultural swath of southwest Ohio. Drive outside of town and you’ll pass mile after mile of farm fields. The county seat of Greenville is a 20-minute drive away, and Interstate 75 runs through Sidney about 20 miles to the east. In short, the village is quiet and tucked away and seems like an idyllic place to grow up.

The history of Versailles as well as the patchwork of tiny nearby communities — places with names like Russia and Yorkshire — are preserved at the Versailles Area Historical Society, which has a museum that covers local military service, high school sports, the Versailles’ fire of 1901 and world-famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Oakley was born near the Darke County village of North Star, and she and her husband, Frank Butler, are interred at Brock Cemetery just north of Versailles. Her famous quote “aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it” is painted on the side of a large white barn in the county along with an image of Oakley raising her rifle toward the sky.
      Versailles’ United Methodist Church and statue outside high school football stadium (photos by Matthew Allen)

Versailles’ United Methodist Church on Wood Street and the statue outside the high school football stadium (photos by Matthew Allen)

Striving for a goal and succeeding is part of life here, particularly when it comes to the local public school system. The high school football team was Division V state champs in 2021, and a long list of sports successes from over the years are displayed on the welcome signs that visitors pass on the way into town. Even more impressive is that the high school finished as one of the top 100 in the state in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 rankings and has long had a standard of excellence beyond sports.

Every student in the district, from kindergarteners to high school seniors, attend the same school — a large and modern facility built beside the local public library and not far from Heritage Park. Aaron Moran is the district’s superintendent and has been since 2012. He grew up in Versailles and graduated from the local high school in 1989. After leaving the area for a while, he returned 10 years ago for the opportunity to lead his hometown school system. For him, that means helping students step outside their comfort zones, push themselves and see what is possible when they work toward a goal.

“I say this to our staff ‘We want them to be more than what they think they can be.’ Too often we put our own caps on ourselves: I’m not good enough, not tall enough, not smart enough,” Moran says. “But by continuing to work on it all the time, you’re going to surprise yourself. You’re going to be farther than you thought you would be.”  

More Best Hometowns 2022: Athens | Bellefontaine | Kent | Perrysburg | Versailles