An oasis in Victorian Village

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Friends christen The House of (Gregg) Dodd due to the homeowner's enthusiasm for entertaining.

Just as Gregg Dodd does in practically everything in his life, he has paid painstaking attention to preserving what's original in his 1891 abode. Dodd is director of marketing for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, a position that requires some sensitivity toward the preservation of collections.

Tucked into Victorian Village, Dodd's home is party central for a large group of friends. The house, which he purchased in January 2007, has acquired some pet names, among them is The House of Dodd.

"I enjoy having fun with my friends, so it is essential I live in a house that is welcoming, comfortable and open," he says.

Measuring 1,450 square feet, Dodd's sense of style for the small home is "comfortable, contemporary and colorful with clean lines," he says. There's plenty of seating for dinners with friends or evenings watching Netflix.

"I think I'm a minimalist compared to some," explains Dodd. "I have a rule: when something comes into the house, something goes out." The weights and sizes of the exchanged items don't have to be comparable, but he consistently seeks parity, editing his collections accordingly.

Natural light floods the home via a huge, front window that has a stained-glass transom. Exposed brick, which is original to the home, lends a rustic feel to the few places where it remains, including a stairway between the home's first and second floors. It also peeks through in unexpected places, such as on the living room's walls.

Because he is naturally curious, Dodd investigated the history behind his home and neighborhood. The subdivision was zoned in 1872 and the alley behind his home was named for T. Ewing Miller, a Columbus developer now buried at Green Lawn Cemetery. Miller and a man named John Jaycees bought the land from Noah H. Swayne, a one-time Columbus city councilman and the first Republican appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Coincidentally for Dodd, Swayne also donated the land upon which the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library stands. Back then, it was known as the Carnegie Library because Andrew Carnegie donated $200,000 to build it, says Dodd.

"It's so cool there's a connection between my house and the man who donated the land upon which the Downtown library sits," says Dodd.

As it happens, Dodd wasn't in the market for a new home when he first was told about the place. He was a content landlord living in half of a duplex he renovated in Olde Towne East. But a friend and real estate agent told him about a Victorian Village home he thought Dodd would love.

"I walked in and felt like I was home. Then I saw the master bedroom, with its vaulted ceilings and skylights, and loved the natural light," says Dodd.

Another draw was the home's enormous, second floor bathroom, which was enlarged when a prior owner usurped some space from a second bedroom. The added space allowed for double pedestal sinks, a luxurious Jacuzzi and an extra-large shower.

The home's third floor is an open loft. Dodd converted one section into an enormous walk-in closet and the remaining space includes a futon and an exercise area.

A native of Toledo, Dodd moved to Columbus in 2000 to work for the Ohio Arts Council. He has always had an affinity for Ohio artists and he proudly displays his finds throughout his home. Among his favorites is "Captain Beefheart," created by local artist Rob Jones. He purchased it a few years back, when the Columbus Metropolitan Library held a fundraiser and invited local artists to create pieces involving books. Jones made Captain Beefheart by stuffing his arms with book pages and sticking a book in his front pocket.

Another favorite, "Chef," created by Columbus artist Adam Brouillette, injects lively color and whimsy into his kitchen. Dodd likes the piece so much, in fact, that before he made an offer on his home, he measured the kitchen walls to be certain the artwork would fit. "I don't think I would have bought this house if that piece didn't fit," he says.

When the weather is favorable, Dodd's favorite space is his backyard. What was once a patch of grass and dirt has been transformed into a respite ripe for entertaining.

"My backyard is my sanctuary," he says. "I grew up being outside. That's what kids did back then. I've always gravitated to going outside when the weather allows it."

An attached wooden deck predates current Victorian Village rules that prohibit them. With easy access from the house, Dodd grills year-round.

"It's a little oasis in the middle of the city," Dodd says of the space.

He recently commissioned a Gahanna carpenter to customize a 16-foot, wooden, outdoor dining table that seats 12. Additionally, he hired a local crafter to create a custom tapestry featuring more than 100 different small, rectangular pieces of cloth for dinner guests to sign after enjoying an outdoor meal. "I thought it was a great way to remember all the fun times my friends and I enjoy around the table," says Dodd.

His home also is within walking distance to many of the most popular spots in the Short North, and he frequently can be found in one of the local eateries. Due to an upswing in the desire for urban living spaces, residential options are being built all around Dodd's Victorian Village neighborhood. He's OK with it. "That just means (there are) more people to meet," he says.