Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Continent

Shops! Hotels! Bars and clubs! A FOOD COURT! A FRENCH MARKET! Tons of young adults hanging around on Friday and Saturday nights out for a night out on the far north outskirts of the city. Business people well dressed for a delicious French meal on their lunch hours. Welcome to the Continent..about 20 years ago. The Continent was developed in the then fast growing Sharon Woods/Worthington area around the Route 161 and I-71 interchange back in the mid 1970s. At the time, the area was growing rapidly being transformed from almost rural farmland and fields to a commercial strip of businesses and apartment community in what was then the northern boundary of the Columbus urban area. While I was both 1. too young to remember, and 2. didn't even live around here at the time, I am told that this was the place to be if you were young, wannabe hip, and had the misfortune of living in Columbus, Ohio from about the late 1970s to late 1980s. The Continent supposedly had one of the nation's first food courts (though the food court opened at Quincy Market/Fanueil Hall came along the same time) and is arguably one of the first combined mall/lifestyle centers in the eastern US. It was still pretty hopping as late as the mid 1990s when Easton, Polaris, Tuttle Mall, and the renewal of the center city started its precipitous decline. In 2000 I moved fairly close to the area and by then it was a ghost town with the area I lived in, becoming a crime infested junkyard of dilapidated apartments. A new Giant Eagle was built on what used to be a Harley Hotel which fronted the Continent on Rt. 161. The various units of bars and restaurants in the Continent have changed hands many times with new names almost every other month. Today, the Continent still exists, but is a shell of what once was. The hotels in the area are still doing well since it is so close to a major interchange. There are a few bars and restaurants as well as a few small shops in the strip just south of the actual Continent trying to make it there, as well as the movie theater now called "The Screens" though that has went through several ownership and name changes over the last decade. The "French Market" has been closed for years and the apartments are still occupied. The large neon sign, visible from I-71 from quite a long distance, I believe was recently refurbished, since I have noticed it to be much brighter the last few months. A few of the pictures in this set are not stricly IN the Continent, but in the area immediately surrounding it. It was raining heavy so there may be some water spots. All taken the night of 3/3. Thompson's Capri Lanes. A small, family owned bowling alley; the same family once owned Sequoia Lanes, which just housed a PBA tournament and is featured in my entry a few months ago. Typical old fashioned lanes, like going back to the 1960s. But it does have automatic scoring. I live in the area behind this center from 2000 to 2002 and the area is a wreck of a place. The bowling alley is still in good shape for it's age and is one of the best bargains around for bowling. I last bowled in a summer league here about 6 years ago. Got to see a Red Sox/Indians game from it.

5 comments:

Stan said...

I remember the Continent vividly as a kid in the early-to-mid 1980s. It was indeed a sort of one-stop-lifestyle-shopping place. My dad played tennis there on the indoor courts, we went shopping in the French Market, and I went to a lot of movies there. For whatever reason I specifically recall my dad picking me up early from school to see "Star Trek III" the day it opened in 1984. I also remember my sister and her friend recording a blood-curdling version of "The Greatest Love of All" at a record-yourself music studio setup in the French Market. Thanks for the memories -- I haven't been back to Columbus for many years and am not surprised that the Continent has declined...there's always something new to come along and make places like that obsolete.

Marilyn said...

I worked at The Continent in the summers when I was in college, at a clothing store called The Dressing Room. That was in '73 & '74, and it was at the top of its game then -- booming. It had a Papagallo store, as well as a lot of other speciality stores and gift shops. Very chichi.

doulasc said...

I moved into this area in 1993 because it was a good area,it was upper middle class.The continent
is a ghetto now.The place is full of pot holes and derlict cars sit in the parking lots. I want to leave this area.It now caters to low income people. I never thought the ghetto would get this far north this close to Worthington which is high class.

Anonymous said...

I use to work at the game room, 'Laser One' next to the movie theaters back in the mid 80's, this place was a happening area. I moved from columbus in the late 80's and was just recently planning on visiting again when i found this article. I am so disappointed, I planned on showing my family the market. I am shocked that it is now a run down shadow of its former self. There was a restaurant next door > rapallos i think, anyone know if its still there?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the name and type of food served at the hexagonal-shaped restaurant that I believe was associated with the Harley Hotel? The hexagonal building is still there, but the Harley Hotel was demolished to make way for a Giant Eagle.