Memory Lane

Memory Lane marker

The marker for Memory Lane on East North Broadway in Columbus, Ohio

Last week, I expected to take a trip down Memory Lane when I attended my 35th high school reunion. Much to my surprise, it was an event two days later that took me down the literal Memory Lane and taught me a bit of Columbus history.

I arranged to meet one of my oldest friends from college, Vicki, in Clintonville. She lives a few blocks from my home in the 1980’s, and she’d told me about a guided art walk being held in the neighborhood. I was eager to take a stroll down Memory Lane with her, because I had walked, driven, and bicycled every street in that area.

Halfway through the tour, I got a real surprise. It turns out that East North Broadway, a street I have traversed thousands of times, actually is Memory Lane!

In the 1930’s, when the city was planning to build a new bridge across the Olentangy River at Broadway, the newly-formed Clintonville Women’s Club proposed that the bridge approach have flowering trees along it, planted for young men of the neighborhood who died in the service.

Little did they know what was to come — the project was underway when World War II broke out. Memory Lane would be lined with trees, each one bearing a marker for one of the boys who died in the war.

Many years later, the city widened the street and removed the trees, which may be why I never realized I was driving on a historic street every day. But a Boy Scout project saved the markers and had them preserved in a nearby cemetery.

Today, there are markers along East North Broadway, like the one above, for those who died in many wars, and homeowners maintain beautiful memory gardens with blooming trees in the strip between the sidewalk and the busy road.

And for those who attended the Friday night event of the high school reunion, I’m posting a few photos for you as well — our own little trip down “Memory Lane.”

The House With Two Front Doors

Double-barreled shotgun house in east Texas

Double-barreled shotgun house in east Texas

Long, narrow double-shotgun house

Long, narrow double-shotgun house

On a January backroads drive through eastern Texas and Louisiana, I noticed a funny, skinny, old clapboard house. What was funny was that it had two front doors, in the middle, side-by-side. Yet the house was barely 16 feet wide, and the door hinges were inches apart.

Once I’d noticed the first one, similar houses caught my eye every few minutes as I drove down the road. All of them seemed to be a certain vintage, maybe 100 years old, and the beat-up cars and overgrown landscaping around them spoke of poverty. I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy, but I desperately wanted a photograph.

Finally, I saw one with a “for sale” sign, so I made a u-turn and went back. Half of the porch roof had fallen down, and the lot was choked with weeds. I walked gingerly, afraid of turning an ankle or stepping on a snake, but made it to the concrete porch without incident. Peering in the windows, I could see that it was two narrow rooms wide and at least four rooms long.

Wrought-iron column

One wrought-iron column holds up what’s left of the porch

When I did some research, later, I found out that such houses have a name: Double-barreled shotgun houses.

A shotgun house is narrow, with no hallways, and the rooms are arranged one behind the next. Doors at the front and back allow the breeze to blow through, and architectural historians trace the design’s roots to Haiti and Africa. In the period between the Civil War and the 1920’s, it was the most common home built in the South.

As the nation became more prosperous, after World War II, shotgun houses became a symbol of poverty. Many were without indoor plumbing, or had a bathroom or kitchen tacked onto the back end. Without hallways, the rooms had no privacy from each other. Double-barreled shotgun houses were even lower on the social strata, crowding two families on one lot with a thin wall between them.

Abandoned chairs

Abandoned chairs rot on the front porch

Today, blogs and tweets about Tiny Houses and Tumbleweed Homes are as popular on the internet as kittens and puppies. I, too, yearn for simpler living in smaller spaces. Owning a one-hundred year-old House With Two Front Doors appeals to me, as an opportunity to turn off the air conditioning, sit on the front porch, and learn about community and tiny living at the same time.