The Circles in Dennison Place Offers Best of Suburb and City Living

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
From the art on the walls to the rugs, Suzanne and Norman Schneiderman's home in The Circles features plenty of Suzanne's favorite hue: purple.

Suzanne Schneiderman, a resident of The Circles since 2002, is a New Yorker at heart. After growing up in New Jersey, she and her husband, Norman, lived in Brooklyn while he attended medical school. Norman's work as a pioneer of the emergency-physician field brought them to Dayton, where they lived for 22 years before making the move to Columbus.

During the pair's later years in Dayton, while Norman worked long hours as a physician, Suzanne found herself bored and restless. The couple also faced a decision about their daughter's education-no school in the area offered the type of Jewish education they sought for her-and Columbus called. During one visit to town, the Schneidermans happened upon the Ohio State campus area's most charming neighborhood.

Though she hasn't lived in her beloved borough for decades, the brownstones of Suzanne's past are still in her heart. And as they drove through The Circles, she suddenly felt like she was home. The house the couple eventually purchased was on the market and happened to be open for potential-buyer walk-throughs that day.

Suzanne was in love. "I found my NYC brownstone with a price I could afford," she says.

Finding The Circles

The Circles is a small neighborhood within Dennison Place and-according to Rick Gallagher, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1996-it's named for its four cobblestone traffic circles. "They help slow down traffic," he says. "And they're beautiful."

Victorian Village is located to the south, Ohio State to the north, Battelle Memorial Institute and the Olentangy River to the west and Neil Avenue to the east. According to statistics from the University District organization, more than 90 percent of the approximately 400 homes in The Circles have been renovated over the past three decades, and many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When they embarked on their hunt, the Schneidermans knew they wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. "I wanted to be where people were around," Suzanne says. "This is a very alive neighborhood, and I love that." While they briefly considered a home near Goodale Park, the pair quickly rejected the area as "too busy."

The home, a stately Queen Anne built in 1895, was built as a one-family abode but was converted at some point-"probably during the Depression," Suzanne says-to multi-unit housing that was likely home to Ohio State employees and professors. Today, the home's decor, both inside and out, pays homage to Suzanne's nearly lifelong adoration of the color purple.

Several long shelves lining one side of the home's updated kitchen feature photo frames, pieces of art and ceramic and pottery serving pieces, most either totally purple or flecked with the color. Flower pots on the front porch are painted in purple hues, too. Another unique aspect of the home is its striking pencil turret. "It is the only one in The Circles and one of only two in the entire area," Suzanne says. It is, of course, painted purple.

Not surprisingly, Suzanne refers to the home as a "Painted Lady." As such, she and Norman take painstaking care of it. "I feel like my house is a gift that's in my possession for a short time and that it's my job to take care of it," she says. "I hope whoever takes it after us cares for it as we have." That day won't come soon, as the family has no intentions of leaving their beloved neighborhood.

The neighborhood "doesn't open and close," Suzanne says. "People are all around. I like its vibrancy and ethnicity, too."

Gallagher enjoys life in The Circles because he likes living in a city neighborhood; yet, "The Circles also has the vibe of a suburb," he says. He also enjoys the area's low crime rate, which he attributes to neighbors watching out for one another. Another benefit of his neighborhood? It's not moored by strict zoning restrictions, as is nearby Victorian Village, which "has very stringent zoning laws limiting what can be done to the outside of a home," Gallagher says.

When Gallagher first moved to Columbus from Atlanta in 1988, he knew little about the city. He bought a modest house in Eastmoor but, in 1996, when the neighborhood "became less desirable and I was able to afford something else," he decided it was time to move. He looked at homes on Neil Avenue and near Goodale Park, dubbing them "way too busy." He also considered homes in Bexley and German Village, but it was when Gallagher walked into his current house that he felt at home. When house-hunting, there were only three homes for sale in The Circles, so competition among buyers was stiff.

His foursquare Victorian was erected around 1900, making it "one of the newest in the neighborhood," Gallagher says. Although he updated the kitchen soon after moving in, the classic style he selected pays homage to the home's past. "The kitchen has an industrial feel that remains true to the home's history as a vintage Victorian that once also housed servants," he says. "I wanted it to look like a period house of the 20th century that looked like it was run by a staff, because in its early days, it was."

On any given day, Gallagher can be found sitting on his generous front porch, chatting with neighbors and watching the goings-on. He is friendly and congenial, and his home's decor of oversized couches, unique souvenirs from world travels and family heirlooms make his space inviting. He is the proud owner of two small dogs, and Eugene, a 5-year-old Pomeranian adopted from the local dog shelter, is definitely king of the castle.

Diversity is a Strength

Both the Schneidermans and Gallagher agree the diversity of their neighborhood is an added benefit. "I like the variety of people," Suzanne says, noting nothing in the neighborhood is cookie-cutter. "The houses and family compositions vary."

That sense of inclusiveness was incredibly appealing to Myron Phillips and Bill Brownson, too. The newlywed couple (they have been together for 24 years) lived in Italian Village for six years when the two decided to look for a new home in 1996. Because they liked the general area, they focused their search on Victorian Village and The Circles. "We were looking for a larger space and wanted a yard," Brownson says. The two love dogs and have always owned a pet, so a backyard was essential.

They chose a Queen Anne with a foursquare layout built sometime between 1880 and 1910. "We like the close-knit neighborhood and the quality and character of the houses," Phillips adds. "Everything we want is convenient. We can walk to shops and restaurants."

The couple has invested a great deal in their home, having renovated much of it in 2001. They updated their kitchen, extended their home to add a family room with an open layout and, just recently, added a glassed-in porch off the family room that provides a relaxing spot for reading.

An unusual characteristic of their home is also one they added. A long hallway from the front door leads to their kitchen to the left and their large dining room to the right. Although they tried to match the wooden floors, they couldn't be replicated exactly. As a way to distract from the slight difference in color between the hallway and kitchen floor, they commissioned an artist to install an intricate wooden inlay in the floor between the kitchen and dining room. They also had a custom-built cabinet installed at the end of the hall.

The second floor of the home features a cozy balcony overlooking the street.

Jim Bishop and Rudine Sims Bishop chose to buy a home in The Circles to be near Ohio State, where they both worked for many years. They've owned two homes in the neighborhood.

When they dated, Rudine was living in Amherst, Massachusetts, while Jim was in Philadelphia. When Rudine moved to Columbus in 1986, she purchased a home across the street from where the couple lives now. Jim joined her in the city in 1987.

Rudine chose The Circles despite advice from her realtor that the neighborhood was unsafe. "I wanted to be close to the university, because I didn't want to commute across town," she says. "It was clearly a quiet area with old homes with character as opposed to cookie-cutter homes."

Jim Bishop had liked the home of their neighbor and even told him, if he ever moved, to let him know. The home once featured a lovely wrap-around front porch he wanted to restore.

That day came in late 1990, and the Bishops lived up to their word and bought their neighbor's home. They updated several areas of the house and, in January 1991, moved in. Among the first changes was reassembling the front porch. "I like to sit on the swing and watch the neighborhood's goings-on," Jim says.

Of course, the couple didn't move across the street simply for a porch. "We wanted more space to have two separate offices," Jim says. "Rudine is an organized person with countless books, but I am not."