Garth’s is a destination business
By Jeff Darbee
COLUMBUS, OHIO –
Someone told me that one of the new occupants of the renovated Municipal Light Plant on Nationwide Boulevard is an auction house. Is that right? It is indeed true. And it’s not just any old auction house. Since the summer of 2019, Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers has been at 589 W. Nationwide Blvd. in the place where Columbus used to make electricity—officially known as the Municipal Electric Light Plant (even today you can occasionally run across wood utility poles with “MELP” identification tags).
Garth Oberlander began the auction business in 1954 in Stratford, the little village on U.S. Route 23 just south of Delaware. He lived in the early 19th century Meeker House and ran auctions from an equally historic barn. Garth’s specialty was and still is fine American antiques and high quality primitive pieces, and the company is well-known to collectors far beyond Ohio. The business has passed through other hands but has been in current ownership since 1995, and the Meeker house and barn are now owned by the Delaware County Historical Society, which has opened the house as a museum (the barn is available for events).
Why locate in the somewhat isolated, out-of-the-way former light plant? It’s because Garth’s is a destination business doing a blend of live (appropriately distanced) and online auctions, so it doesn’t have to be in the middle of the city. Since it was in a historic location for 65 years, the owner wanted another such place when the company moved. While it’s nothing like a venerable old barn, the former light plant more than fits the bill.
For information, www.garths.com or 740-362-4771.
Question Originally posed to City Quotient in Columbus Monthly, November 27, 2020. Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus.