Oct 19, 2021 - Real Estate

The Main Bar's demolition is a blow to Columbus' historic preservation

The building formerly housing The Main Bar was torn down to add extra parking spaces and, eventually, new development. Photo: Axios

130 years of history were recently reduced to a pile of bricks, which had been standing since Main Street out front had been made of brick, too.

  • Such is the epitaph for The Main Bar, built in 1890 and demolished to add seven spaces to a parking lot.

Why it matters: The demolition marks another failure for historic preservation in Columbus, which has seen a growing number of noteworthy sites torn down in recent decades in the name of development.

Flashback: The Main Bar was the last surviving commercial building on its West Main Street block, per the Columbus Landmarks Foundation. The "Hare and Corbin Saloon" opened way back when Ohioan Benjamin Harrison was president.

Threat level: Developers have long eyed something bigger for the site, leading the foundation to include it in a 2015 list of most-endangered properties.

State of play: The pandemic wound up being the final nail in the coffin, with little foot traffic downtown leading to the demise of the historic dive bar. It closed in February.

  • Demolition required approval from the Columbus Downtown Commission, which granted it in June under the condition that new construction would begin within two years.
  • Otherwise, developers would need to rebuild the parking lot to current city standards.

The other side: Amit Ghosh, the city's chief building official, told the commission there was not any history of issues with the building's structural integrity.

  • "It is unusual that a building goes from being occupied by tenants to imminent danger of collapse in a very short period of time."
  • Becky West, executive director for the foundation, called the proposal "a step backward for our city" during a commission meeting in May..

The big picture: The foundation has tracked hundreds of historic buildings in the Columbus area, noting both those still standing and which have been lost to development.

  • A newly-published book, "Forgotten Landmarks of Columbus," also highlights various examples of local preservation successes and failures.

The bottom line: With The Main Bar gone, drivers on Main Street have a clearer view of a large banner behind it: an advertisement for the new iPhone.


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