Court Street Shaped by Fire


Uptown Athens has been a focal point of Athens County for over 200 years.

Sarah Penix / News Editor

Ever since the first Ohio University Board of Trustees named Court Street in 1806, OU has played a major role in shaping uptown Athens.

Over the years, the university has increasingly shaped uptown Athens. Since the 1960s and ‘70s, Court Street shifted from being the long-standing centralized business district of Athens County to a hub for students looking for weekend wear, food, drinks and legal services.

Court Street has always been lined with professional offices, cinemas and taverns, but in the past 50 years, the infrastructure has shifted to cater to students more. For example, the prevalence of bars increased in the ‘70s when the legal drinking age was 18.


Court Street on May 29th, 2018.

Now lined with bars, restaurants, student apartments and boutiques, Court Street still houses a few buildings remaining that showcase Athens’ rich history.

The First Presbyterian Church, 2 N. Court St., dates back to 1809 but went through two renovations before being replaced with the current structure in 1902. In 1880, what we know as the Athens County Courthouse was dedicated, but the clock atop the building has been keeping time since 1875. It was transferred from the old city hall building in 1935.

Much of Court Street has been shaped by fires throughout its history. In 1877, “the great fire” destroyed almost everything from the corner of Court and East Union streets to the Athena Cinema, causing what would now be almost half a million dollars in damage.

In 1922, 1952, 1955 and 1962, fires on Court Street destroyed historical buildings and gutted churches, banks and bars.

After a few decades of avoiding major fires, there was another devastating series in the ‘80s. Most notably, a 1982 fire destroyed Athens’ only department store, which stood in the location of the current parking lot between Lucky’s Tavern, 11 N. Court St., and Attractions Hair Salon, 19 N. Court St.

Throughout the ‘80s, flower shops, restaurants, a video arcade, a children’s store and a barber shop were also casualties of fires on Court Street.

Most recently, a fire on West Union Street in 2014 damaged apartments and four businesses on the block intersecting Court Street. Although construction finished last year, the change is apparent despite the survival of businesses that were displaced for about three years.

Now, there are new apartments and locations of businesses that have defined West Union Street for years, including Jack Neal Floral and the recently renamed 10 West Clothing Company.

Court Street’s history goes beyond OU and is a story of Athens’ resilience.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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