Short North Arches Have Storied Past

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Arches were once a selling point for Ohio’s capital city.

Arches were first installed along High Street in what is now the Short North district in 1888, said Scott Caputo of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The arches were erected for the Grand Army of the Republic’s 22nd Encampment, a reunion of sorts for Civil War Soldiers. Thousands of veterans descended on downtown Columbus.

“Columbus was once proclaimed the arch city by the Columbus Board of Trade in 1909,” Caputo said.

Caputo said that the main use for the arches was to provide lighting and safety to the area, 10TV’s Jerry Revish reported.

“They were built primarily as a crime deterrent, to provide lighting for the stores,” Caputo said.

High Street merchants contributed money to pay for the original arches, which were wooden and lighted with gas lights.

The arches were not supposed to have a long history, Caputo said.

“As early as the next year, 1889, city council was actually advertising in the newspapers for someone to take the arches down for free, and they couldn’t get anybody to do it,” Caputo said.

Several years later, the wooden arches were replaced with metal ones.

Historic consultant Jeff Darbee said that the arches served another purpose, too.

“When the streetcars were electrified, they ran up and down High Street,” Darbee said. “Other street wires were supported by the arches so the street cars could run up and down the streets.”

In 1912, city council decided to take the metal arches down and replace them with globe lights – called cluster lights.

“They had five gloves, they were electric and supposedly much cheaper to run,” Caputo said.

It was not until about 10 years ago the arches returned to the Short North district. The city and the Short North paid to install 22 new arches with color-changing, fiber-optic lighting.

Crowds now descend on the Short North on the first Saturday of each month for Gallery Hop, illuminated by the new arches.

Development continues in the Short North. The Pizzuti Company plans a $59 million project that includes a boutique hotel, an office building and parking.

The next Gallery Hop is slated for April 7.

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