The Columbus North High School front door used to be just off 25th Street.
Now it’s just off the parking lot at what used to be the back of the building.
People used to go into the offices of Irwin Management Co., at 301 Washington St., through a front door on Washington Street. Today that door is locked, and a notice at the entry instructs visitors and employees of Cummins Inc. (current owner of the building) to enter the building on Third Street.
Washington Street is where most downtown businesses position their front doors, but to go into the Puccini’s Smiling Teeth restaurant at the Commons requires an entrance off Fourth Street. That same approach was used by its former neighbor, the Detour restaurant, which asked guests to first enter through the Commons and ask for a table at an entry opposite Jean Tinguely’s ‘Chaos.’
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that visitors to The Republic trying to get into the newspaper through the front door on Second Street will find it locked. They have better access to the building through an entry just off the parking lot.
All this makes me wonder if the front door has become an endangered species, at least in Columbus.
I’m pretty sure this is not an issue of particular burning concern to anyone. Besides a lack of interest, I don’t see a whole lot that can be done to get people to start using front doors any time soon.
In fact, I began to think of myself as a lone wolf in even broaching the subject until I brought the subject up to Columbus architect Nolan Bingham.
“Funny thing is that I made a presentation before a local group recently and raised the issue of the front door as it pertains to churches,” he said. “Actually, people today are more likely to enter the building through a side or back entrance off the parking lot.”
The most notable exception to that trend to modernism is North Christian Church, which was designed with the parking lot feeding directly into the actual front door of the building.
Easy access from parking lots is an obvious factor in the inclination of many people to use some other entry than a front door.
Security concerns also are a factor. Some businesses actually prefer not to have visitors, and a few even require a key or access code to get into their building.
Even homeowners and their guests skip so-called formal entries and prefer to use the more easily accessible side or back doors. Many don’t even use external entrances, able to step into their kitchen or laundry room from the garage.
Truth is, there are fewer reasons today for people to go into a lot of businesses, thus raising the question as to whether any kind of entry is needed, save for those who might work in the building. Consider banks where depositors or check cashers once used to stand in long lines to do their business. Today those same people are likely to have their pay checks electronically deposited and have access to ATM machines all over town if they need cash quickly.
While it’s understandable that front doors have fallen into disfavor, there’s something to be said for entering or exiting a building through one of them.
There’s a certain sadness associated with Bingham’s observation that many local churchgoers opt for a side or rear entrance to their place of worship.
I have long felt that front doors give those who enter them a sense of being special, a feeling of being welcome. With cathedrals especially, the front door or front entrance serves as a prelude to the majestic opening inside.
There’s a lot to appreciate in what front doors offer. Too bad that so few people take advantage of the opportunity.
Harry McCawley is the former associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.