Former University District lesbian bar receives landmark mark, first in central Ohio to recognize LGBTQ+ community
One of Ohio’s oldest lesbian bars, Summit Station, will receive a historical marker in June after community members worked to commemorate its impact in central Ohio.
Two years ago, Julia Applegate, a senior lecturer in the Ohio State Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and former patron of the bar, said she began the process of getting the marker to document Ohio’s oft-forgotten queer history. Although the bar no longer exists, its impact left a mark on Columbus.
“For at least eight or ten years, I was there three or four nights a week,” Applegate said. “When I moved here, I had just got out and had a job, and we would go there to play pool or after softball games, to watch shows, to listen to music. I did karaoke, played darts, did fundraisers, and made plans for my life. It really functioned almost more like a community center than a bar.
Originally named Jack’s A Go-Go, the bar was purchased around 1980 by one of his lesbian bartenders and renamed Summit Station, becoming one of the largest women’s bars in Columbus, Applegate said. After several decades, the bar closed in 2008 after owner Petie Brown fell ill.
Applegate said the process for the marker included approving the fundraiser, writing the text for the marker and obtaining the correct permits for it to be placed where the bar once stood at 2210 Summit St. Summit Music Hall, which is now at the address, will host events on June 10 to celebrate the dedication.
Applegate said she helped raise money for these festivities and a documentary about the bar’s legacy.
“I’ve lived in Ohio most of my life and I really love history. One of the things that’s true about Ohio history is that there’s a lot of history LGBTQ, but it’s not documented or shared,” Applegate said. “I had spoken to some folks at the Ohio History Connection who recognize that the story is undocumented, and they’re trying to fix that. .”
Ben Anthony — head of the community engagement department at the Ohio History Connection, the nonprofit that manages historical markers in the state — said in a statement of the 1,800 history markers in the Ohio, Summit Station will be the third in the state and the first in Central Ohio that focuses on the LGBTQ+ community.
“We hope every Ohioan can discover historical markers in Ohio that reflect their own history and Ohio’s unique history,” Anthony said. “The group that submitted the Summit Station Ohio Historical Marker is to be commended for their incredible passion, research, and perseverance in commemorating an institution for the lesbian community in central Ohio.”
Applegate said she’s proud to be a part of this process and excited to see more markers in central Ohio and beyond to continue documenting such stories.
“Columbus has a reputation as the most LGBTQ-friendly city in the state,” Applegate said. “I moved here because he had that reputation and I stayed here because a lot of that is true, but we just didn’t get him together to get a marker, and I’m really glad that’s the first.”