History of Oak Street Building Surfaces Following Demolition
The building that stood on the northwest corner of Oak Street and Ohio Avenue was built around 1900. The Baist Real Estate Atlas Map from 1899 shows a building about half the size on the corner, and two years later the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1901 shows the full building with numbers from 1102 through 1112.
According to the Columbus City Directory for 1901-1902, 1104 Oak was occupied by Peter Gehr, plumber and gas fitter; 1106 by James A Larsh, travel agent; and 1108 by Theodore B Ellis, who was a druggist. The corner store was occupied by John J Kinsell, who was a grocer, baker, and coal dealer with several locations in Columbus at the time. Kinsell appears to have been the first tenant on this plot, so rather than referring to the building by the intersection or group of addresses, or just “the building”, I will call it the Kinsell building.
In 1911, 1102 Oak was a dry goods store operated by F S Shepard. C E Kern, tailor was in 1104, and C L Morris and E B Hawes, pharmacists were in 1108, with J J Kinsell still operating the corner grocery. There were also apartments upstairs, most notably two units at 1106, but I concentrated my research on the businesses that occupied the ground floor.
In 1913, 1102 was vacant, but Kern, Morris & Hawes, and Kinsell were all still in place. By 1915, barber Charles Koehl had taken over 1102, with the same neighbors. From 1920 to 1925, the owner of the Kinsell building was Frank P Holtzman, who by that time was long retired from his stint as Bexley’s first mayor. By the mid-1920s, Morris & Hawes had become Buck’s Pharmacy and Earl Ballou had taken over as the corner grocer.
1930 found 1102 vacant again, but Kern’s tailor shop and Buck’s Pharmacy were still in operation, and the grocery store was renamed Ohio Market. In 1935, Paris Cleaning & Dyeing Co. had taken over 1102, Buck’s Pharmacy and Ohio Market were still going, and a restaurant called Murray’s had taken over the spot at 1104. In 1937, the decision was made to convert the Columbus streetcar system into a “trackless trolley” (bus) system, beginning with the Oak Street line, which completed conversion on October 16, 1938.
By 1940, Gilbert H Murray’s restaurant had moved to the west side of the Kinsell building to spot 1102, 1104 was vacant, Ohio Market was still on the corner, and 1108 had turned into Joe’s Cut Rate Drugs. In 1945, a barber named Harry H Heskett had his shop at 1104, but by 1950 that address was vacant again. The spot became Jack’s Barber Shop for a short time around 1954.
The 1950s saw the Murray family buy the building catercorner across the intersection, at 1117 Oak, where they started a carryout. That decade also saw Olde Towne East cut off from neighboring areas by the new interstate highway system. The freeways allowed wealthier families with automobiles to move away from the antiquated mansions of the inner city to suburbs with new development on wide lawns.
The 1960s were a fairly stable time for the Kinsell building, with Joe’s Cut Rate Drugs still at 1108, Ohio Market still on the corner, and Murray’s Grill taking over the entire west half. However, ownership of these businesses changed hands a lot, and the character in the neighborhood was well in decline. The Dispatch reported on some liquor permit problems at Murray’s, along with several shootings and robberies there and at Joe’s, from 1961 to 1971. One 1965 shooting resulted in the victim’s death.
In 1970, Rosetta’s Lounge took up most of the Kinsell building, spots 1102 through 1108, and the corner was Thompson Meat Market Inc. In November 1971, police conducted a raid at Rosetta’s Bar and charged the manager with permitting gambling. This appears to have been the coup de grâce. The Kinsell building went vacant from 1972 through 1974, when Hurt’s TV & Electronics opened on the corner. By 1976, the building was utterly vacant and soon fell into neglect. In 1985 the US Department of the Interior noted the condition of the building as “poor” when it was nominated to be on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Columbus Near East Side District. The building remained dilapidated and empty until it was demolished April 22, 2015, only months after it had been purchased for renovation.
I wish I could have found a photo of the Kinsell building during its heyday, preferably in the first 20 to 30 years of its existence. Such photos, if they exist at all, are not in public circulation because the building was not a mansion built by illustrious personage and preserved on film for future generations. Rather, it was an undistinguished building that was part of the workaday backdrop of so many people in our neighborhood that many people forgot to take notice of it. Citizens of Columbus went by the Kinsell building every day — on foot, on bicycles, on trolleys, on buses – and conducted business there for so many decades that it became part of the landscape. For many people, the Kinsell building stood on the corner for their entire lifetime, and I’m sure many thought it would stand there forever.
For about five years I lived across the street from the decrepit, boarded-up hulk it had become. When looking at it in that state, it was easy to forget the life that the bricks once embraced. Neighbors talked gossip and politics there, had hems taken up and waistbands let out, sought advice for illness and disease, and planned for once-in-a-lifetime trips within its walls. People bought their groceries on that corner for over 60 years. They earned their livings, ate and slept, lived and died there. Now the Kinsell building will no longer be able add to the history our neighborhood because it is only a memory.
Author’s note: Less than twenty-four hours after my article was published online, a kind neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, granted my wish to see the building when it was still full of life. I am sharing the picture with you with that person’s permission, along with a “thank you.”
Based on the fashions, I would place this photo no later than the mid-1910s. Details of note: the streetcar power lines, the retractable awnings, the street name plaques on the corner of the building, the horse-drawn carriage. The type of fire hydrant in the bottom of the frame was patented by the Holly Manufacturing Company in 1869 and started to become popular across the country in the 1880s.
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