By Janie Blank
Do you like the arts? Do you like things a little out of the mainstream? Do you like a unique restaurant, one that is not a chain? Are you interested in an historic district with lots of charm? If you answered yes to these questions then you will probably enjoy a stroll through the Short North. The Short North is made up of the High Street commercial district, most commonly known as the Short North, and residential areas, Victorian Village and Italian Village.
The Short North is known as an arts district. It is connected to downtown by something known as the Cap. The Cap is actually shops and restaurants that are built over the highway between the Convention Center and the Short North. It has wide sidewalks and a Victorian facade that matches the historic train station arches that once stood in this place. It is lined with outdoor dining and flows into the shopping, art galleries and restaurants that make up this area.
A fixture in Columbus social life is Gallery Hop which takes place the first Saturday night of every month. The area comes alive with thousands of people who stroll along High Street, browse through shops looking at every type of art imaginable being shown in galleries, retail shops, hair salons and restaurants. It is definitely the place to see and be seen. The first Gallery Hop was in 1984 and now over twenty years later it is more popular than ever.. If you can plan your visit to Columbus around the first Saturday night of the month then you are guaranteed a fun evening. My daughters live in Chicago and always try and schedule their trip home for the first weekend of the month.
Some of the fun galleries are the Kathryn Gallery featuring a variety of wonderful painters, the Sherrie Gallery which has a lot of art ceramics and the Lindsay Gallery, which shows mostly self taught folk artists. Another favorite is ROY G BIV. See if you can figure out the name. Virtually every shop, restaurant and hair salon will be showing works for sale. One of the neighborhood favorites is a funky artist named Rick Borg who often parks his dilapidated old station wagon n a side street and sets up his colorful paintings done on old scraps of wood, cupboard doors and I even have one painted on a shutter! Don’t let his casual demeanor fool you. He has a Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University.
The Short North features some great shopping as well. There are antique stores, consignment shops and vintage clothing. You can find fixtures and gifts at Loot and Wells Landing, a kitchen store called the Kitchen Sorcerer, a store full of kitschy fun things called Cowtown Art, and the Global Gallery that has items from all over the world. For books there is An Open Book. For Jewelry there is Alexanders or None Other Too. Paul Robinett is a popular place for hand poured candles that are shipped all over. PM Gallery has lots of small art items from glass balls to funky switch plates. PM is one of the oldest shops in the district.
If you come for Gallery Hop you will want to check out the restaurants and make your reservation well in advance. One of the oldest and a personal favorite is Rigsbys Cuisine Volatile. When it first came to town twenty years or so ago we called it California Cuisine. It was something new here. The owner is a chef and had trained in California and brought the open kitchen concept to Columbus. It is still a one-of- a-kind with brick walls and glass fronting the street and a classy bar. As a matter of fact all along High Street you will see the hip crowd gathered at wine bars. The Burgundy Room has great tapas, Hyde Park on the Cap is the in steak house and Lemon Grass and Lui Pon Xi feature upscale Asian cuisine. If you are looking for a more casual atmosphere you can go to Bettys Diner for meatloaf or the Happy Greek. Macs is a great bar with Pub food where you might find beef stew or Shepherds Pie on the blackboard.
As you might have guessed I have barely skimmed the surface on the wide variety of shops, galleries and restaurants that are in this remarkable area. If you have the time you might want to do additional research on your own. (www.theshortnorth.com/shops%20and%20galleries.htm)
Within the Short North are also two historic neighborhoods of gorgeous old world architecture. Victorian Village renovation is virtually complete. The centerpiece of Victorian Village is Goodale Park named after Dr. Lincoln Goodale. He donated 40 acres to the city around 1850 and it is thought to be one of the first public parks in the country. The man thoroughfare is Neil Avenue, a beautiful tree line street, part boulevard hat connects downtown Columbus to Ohio State University. The street is well over a mile of Victorian mansions the majority of which have been restored. If you are interested in architecture from this era, strolling the streets of Victorian Village should be on your list of things to do in Columbus (www.victorianvillage.org/page5088.cfm)
The other area is Italian Village and this centers around Fourth Street to the East of the Short North. There are still many houses in Italian Village being renovated and many good buys yet to be had. Many new buildings made to look like the architecture of the era are going up as well for those who do not want the work of maintaining hundred year old buildings. Italian Village centers around an historic church built in 1898 called St. John the Baptist and is the center of the Italian Festival held around Labor Day each Year. If you like good Italian food do not miss this festival!
A new development called Jeffrey Place is being built on a tract of land once occupied by the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company on Fourth Street. This development features condos and lofts and is a focal pint of the area. Kramer Place is also getting a lot of buzz. Barry Bolts has also developed some old commercial buildings for use both commercially and for residential. He has commissioned local artists named Curtis Goldstein and Michelle Attias to do an outdoor mural along the railway that is intriguing. Curtis has also done a full brick wall mural along High Street right in the center of the Short North that is a copy of a George Bellows painting, Cliff Dwellers. George Bellows was a Columbus native. (brickstreet-arts.org/info.htm). (For additional information on Italian Village try this site (shortnorth.com/ItalianVillageHistory.html).
The Short North packs a lot of fun and history into a small area. You cannot say you have been to Columbus if you have not been to the Short North.