Back in the summer of 1999, I took these pictures of the South Campus bar district.

When I was in school in The Eighties, the South Campus High St. bars were the center of social life on campus. On weekend nights, students by the hundreds streamed from the dorms to the bars. Young people from around Central Ohio flocked to the block to be part of the action. Long lines formed outside many bars. Saturday nights saw crowds so dense that police were obliged to tie ropes to the light poles to keep people from falling into traffic. Vehicle traffic on High St. was so dense that the 5-minute trip from Lane Ave. to King Ave. on High St. could take an hour. Police often closed off the intersection of 11th and High on weekend nights and set up a command post there. Underage drinking, fall-down drunkenness, illegal drug sales, fights, and public sex acts were commonplace. Pools of urine, blood, and vomit dotted the streets Sunday morning.

By 1999, it was an area already on the ropes. When the drinking age went up to 21 in 1987, it hit the bars hard. Most relied heavily on 18 to 20-year-old drinkers. Reacting to the Sodom and Gomorrah nature of the place, in 1996, the city began aggressively enforcing liquor laws and yanking licenses. In April 1996, a huge fire destroyed Papa Joe's Pizza and left a gaping hole in the block. The grimy run-down appearance of the area and surging street crime in the nearby neighborhood fueled talk of demolition and urban renewal.

Three years from when these photos were taken, it was all gone.

1536 N High, the former home of Crazy Mama’s.The legendary Crazy Mama’s nightclub was the campus home for punk, New Wave, and rockabilly from 1979 to 1994.

Building was demolished 2002 to make way for the South Campus Gateway complex. In fact, it was the first building to come down. There was a ceremony attended by the mayor and local dignitaries.

You can tell it's 1999 because of the sign for "Star Wars Cup Toppers" at Taco Bell (right edge of pic).

Also note the guy using a pay phone from his car on the right. That's what we called a mobile phone in the old days, kids!

Panorama of the South Campus district taken from parking lot of Taco Bell, 1525 N. High St.

Vacant lot at right is the former site of Betty Brown Bakery. Betty Brown made bread, doughnuts, and pastries for sale in the Columbus-based Big Bear grocery store chain. Yes, there was a working industrial bakery in the middle of a campus bar strip. Smelled great.

The bars in this photo had already been closed for nearly 3 years in 1999. The city pulled their liquor licenses in 1996 after they rolled up hundreds of arrests for underage drinking and other offenses.

The South Campus bars were awful by any standard other than that of a wide-eyed 19-year-old or a nostalgic 45-year-old. That said, things happened there. Powerful things. Life-transforming things.

People met their spouses there. Families that have grandchildren now started from a meeting in Mean Mr. Mustards. Friends had adventures there that cemented bonds that last to this day. People met their future pallbearers there. Thirty years on, people tell the story of "That night at Mama's when..." People heard their favorite band for the first time at these watering holes and began a lifelong fandom.

Not all of the things that happened were good. People met their future exes. Couples broke-up in screaming fights. Alcoholics descended into the depths of their addiction. People shot up for the first or last time. People still bear scars from barfights or muggings. Sexual assaults were not unknown.

For good or ill or both, peoples lives were changed by the nights they spent there and that's why they remember it.

Nearing the 11th Ave. end of South Campus were some businesses. Magnolia Thunderpussy, a great college record store was at 1585 N. High from 1971 until mid 1999. It still thrives today a few blocks south in the Short North.

Vacant lot at the far left of the picture is the former site of the legendary/notorious Papa Joe's.

Papa Joe's was the campus meat-market of the Seventies and Eighties, It was the place where freshmen, sophomores, and high school kids with fake I.D.s went to get drunk on cheap beer and hook-up.

It was the archetype of campus bars. On Friday and Saturday nights, crowds lined up around the block to squeeze themselves inside. A loud P.A. system thundered the hits of The Eighties at deafening volume. Beer was served in galvanized buckets. The toilets were indestructible metal prison toilets. Wrestlers and football players worked as bouncers but drunken 19-year-old boys got in fights regularly despite this. At the end of the night, the crew literally hosed the place down.

Singing Dog was another great campus record store. It started at 1630 N. High St. back in 1978, moved a block north in 2002, and managed to hang on there until 2009.

The store at the corner was a drugstore way back in the 1940s, operated by golf great Jack Nicklaus' dad. Young Jack used to hang around there as a boy.

Demolition of South Campus buildings, underway in Spring 2002.