Remembering the store that once sat across the street from Lazarus

As CQ has discussed, the former Downtown Lazarus department store on High Street was a big Columbus retailer. But didn’t Lazarus have a major competitor also in the Downtown area? It sure did. The Union was right across the street. But any competition between them was decidedly friendly, partly because each had been established by long-term Columbus Jewish families who knew each other well, but also because The Union was largely a clothing store, while Lazarus offered diverse lines such as toys, coins and stamps, furniture and so on.

The Union was established in 1894 by Sol M. Levy at the northwest corner of Long and High streets. His family had owned clothing stores in other cities during the Civil War and, being loyal to the Union side, took that name for their stores. Then-Gov. William McKinley convinced Levy to consider Columbus.

That first Columbus store burned after about 10 years and was replaced by the white brick building that still stands on the site. The Union stayed there until 1968, when it moved across from Lazarus into a 1951 building occupied by a clothing retailer called The Fashion. The Union opened its first branch in the late 1940s and eventually had six suburban locations. The Union was sold in 1980 and briefly operated as a Halle’s, but closed two years later when the property was purchased by the city for the late, great City Center Mall on the site occupied today by Columbus Commons.

Can you tell me about Cristo Rey High School? Cristo Rey is an association of college preparatory high schools dedicated to enabling students from economically challenged families to graduate from both high school and college. The first school started in Chicago in 1996. Cristo Rey Columbus High School was established in 2013 at the site of the former Ohio School for the Deaf. It was the 26th school in the network, which today has 32 participating schools all over the country. Three more will join later this year.

“Cristo Rey” is Spanish for “Christ the King”; each school is sponsored by affiliates of the Catholic Church and Cristo Rey Columbus is sponsored by the Diocese of Columbus. However, these are not church-owned schools. Each is independently owned and controlled by a nonprofit entity, governed by a president and a board of trustees.

The schools are built on a work-study model in which each student has a full-time job one day a week. Local businesses agree to hire students and pay them for their work, but that money goes toward the student’s tuition, covering about half of that cost. The balance comes from vouchers, parents, and fundraising activities. Expenditures per student are about $13,000 a year. The Columbus school currently has 360 students, who are admitted after a review of their middle-school records, an interview and a placement test.

For at least the last 10 years, every graduating Cristo Rey senior nationally has been accepted by at least one college.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to cityquotient@columbusmonthly.com, and the answer might appear in a future column.

Sources: Don Levy interview, Columbus Jewish Historical Society; Doug Motz, Columbus Historical Society website; Jim Foley, President, Cristo Rey Columbus High School