The Garden Theater opened in 1920 as the premier entertainment showcase north of downtown on High Street. Originally a vaudeville and movie emporium, the Garden anchored the neighborhood just south of Fifth Avenue.A landmark for decades, the theater has had varied life. The center of community life from the 1920s until around 1970, the Garden declined after being sold in 1967 following the death of its long-term owner Evelyn Miles. By the late 1970s it had become a strip tease house and in the 1980s was a notorious home for pole dancers, pornographic movies, and prostitutes. In 1996, a local church, the Garden Worship Center, took up residence and began renovations, but sold the building to real estate investors in 2007. Although the years took their toll on the once-grand Garden, its structure stayed strong.
In July of 2011 Short North Stage signed a long-term lease and began planning to bring the Garden back to life as one of Columbus's premier performing arts centers. A grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council supported a structural analysis and initial planning strategy. Further architectural design work for a phased renovation is underway. In the meantime, Short North Stage has begun upgrading the main auditorium making it suitable for musicals and concerts. With more than 150 seats and an elegant historic stage, the Garden evokes both history and hopes for the future.
To enhance its mission of first-class musical and theatrical entertainment, Short North Stage also opened an adjacent second stage, called The Green Room. With seating capacity of 65 at cabaret tables, The Green Room offers an intimate environment for cabaret performances, comedy and small musicals. It also provides a comfortable venue for receptions and gatherings.
This fall Short North Stage will expand next door and open new show-business oriented lounge, called Ethel’s Stage Left, in honor of Ethel Miles, the woman who for decades built the foundation for the Garden Theater’s past and future life.