Uptown block has seen a lot of changes

The top photo, courtesy Athens County Historical Society & Museum, shows part of the western side of North Court Street between Washington and State streets, probably from the mid-’70s. The bottom photo, taken by Athens NEWS Editor Terry Smith from his office window across the street, shows the same section but with the middle and right-hand buildings gone. The “Fair Store” in the top photo is Lucky’s in the bottom picture. Belk and the Cat’s Den both burned in a 1982 fire.

This "Exhuming the Morgue" installment is a bit of a departure in that the historical content isn't taken from old back issues of The Athens NEWS but rather from a photo provided by the Athens County Historical Society & Museum.

However, I did ask the person in charge of "Exhuming the Morgue" (me) if this one-time exception from the rules was OK, and he (I) said, "Sure, no problem."

The above photo shows a section of the west side of the North Court Street block between West Washington and West State streets. I'm guessing it's mid-'70s, since that was my era as an Ohio University student in Athens, and I recall these stores.

I remember having a beer by myself in the Cat's Den, the middle building, in mid-afternoon between classes on a weekday, and looking back, can only ask myself, "What on earth were you doing drinking as beer in a dive bar in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday?" My guess is that as a rookie beer drinker, the mystique of drinking at a dive bar in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday was too much to resist.

(At the time I was in the thrall of J.P. Donleavy's legendary fictional account of a drunken American ex-pat wastrel in post-War Ireland, "The Gingerman," which goes a long way toward explaining my mindset at the time.)

The other interesting thing about this photo is that it shows a section of North Court Street that I have looked at six days a week for the past 29 years. I'm looking at it right now. My office is on the second floor of 14 N. Court St., just across the street.

The area looks much different now, with the left-hand building (Fair Store) now the building that holds Lucky's Sports Tavern. Lucky's has a brick fa ade now, but that's definitely the same building. The other two buildings - Belk department store and the Cat's Den haven't been in that spot since before I started working at The Athens NEWS in 1986. A fire destroyed them in 1982.

A parking lot now occupies the spot where those buildings stood.

This photo and many others are part of an ongoing project - Growing Up in Athens County Book Project - that we ran an article about in last Thursday's issue.

If you'd like to contribute to the project, here's some information about how to do so…

The Growing Up in Athens Book Project is open to anyone who grew up in Athens or the surrounding area. Submissions can be made at the website growingupinathens.com using a form under the "How to Participate" tab.

Also, a form can be picked up at the Athens Community Center, the Athens County Historical Society & Museum or the Athens Public Library. The Athens Community Arts, Parks and Recreation Department and the Historical Society are cosponsoring the project.

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