Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s bracing book reveals the secrets behind our favorite haunts
By Steve CroylePublished August 1, 2012
I’ve always thought it was a good thing that Hal and Al’s bar is as vibrant on the inside as it is on the outside, because it helps you overcome the external aesthetic of the vividly blue building on a stretch of Parsons Avenue that has seen better days – though most people would be hard pressed to tell you when those better days took place.
That’s where Doreen Uhas Sauer can provide a little context.
“You normally wouldn’t think there was a lot of historical significance to a blue, concrete block structure, but there’s a lot of history here,” she said.
Doreen and co-author Tom Betti, who also host the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s monthly historic tavern tour, would be best described as, well . . . total history nerds.
Tom is the chairman of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s Education Committee and he founded the Preservation Committee of the Columbus Athletic Club. Doreen is Board President of the Landmarks Foundation and a decorated teacher with Columbus City Schools. They are both prone to slipping into an engaging storytelling mode and have managed to capture that enthusiasm in their new book, Historic Columbus Taverns: The Capital City’s Most Storied Saloons.
I’m not being punny when I say that this is hardly a dry read about nattily dressed power brokers politely sipping Scotch over smoldering stogies. This book is loaded with true stories about scandalous affairs, hidden brothels, corruption, murder, and live bears. Yes, bears.
Or, how about this little gem, plucked from the book:
Colonel John Rathbone, having a few sips at the back bar, supposedly met his death when an unidentified and, for the most part, unclad woman slipped into the back bar and plunged a dagger into Rathbone’s evil heart. Rathbone was a notorious womanizer who plucked his victims of their innocence and left them.
That’s the kind of nugget that makes this book such a page-turner. Not only are the anecdotes captivating, but the book is accented with rarely printed historical photographs and drawings. Perhaps the most intriguing part is that many of the places where the scandals occurred can still be experienced in person.
“It’s not about memorizing dates,” Tom said. “We want to present history in an exciting way that people can relate to.”
The book is an easy read at 150 pages, and the CLF will ship it directly to your door for the paltry sum of $20. Proceeds benefit the Foundation and their education and community programs. You can also meet the authors at the upcoming book signing event at Easton on August 18th or the next historic tavern tour, which will take place on August 30th.
As for the history Doreen alluded to at Hal and Al’s . . . you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Readers can meet the authors at the Easton Barnes & Noble, 4005 Townsfair Way, on Saturday, August 18th at 2 p.m. For more about the tour and the book, visit www.columbuslandmarks.org.