Kelton House Museum and Garden: Tour restored Victorian home that was once a stop along Underground Railroad

Tour Victorian-era home that was stop along Underground Railroad


On a frigid January afternoon, my daughter, Rosie, and I followed a costumed man through the Kelton House, a Victorian-era home and museum in downtown Columbus.

The historic home is open for docent-led tours on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Our tour was the last of the day, as snow began to pile up outside, keeping other would-be tourists away.

  • Kelton House Museum and Garden
  • Tour Victorian-era home that was stop along Underground Railroad
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Mark Welch, a thin, gray-haired man in a long, black coat, led us through parlors filled with 19th-century furnishings and antiques that were once owned by the Kelton family. He showed us jewelry made from human hair and a bed where a member of the Kelton family had died. He also told us that some think the old house is haunted. He said that other docents have heard the voice of a little girl from behind a door. He then left us to explore the upstairs rooms on our own, as he swiftly departed down a spiral staircase.

Rosie and I followed Welch afterward and joked that he, too, was a ghost. Our exploration proved adventuresome and educational, as is the intent of the museum, which opened in 1976 and is operated by the Junior League of Columbus.

Built in 1852, the house was once home to Fernando Cortez Kelton and Sophia Langdon Stone Kelton. It stayed with the family for three generations until 1975 when the Kelton’s granddaughter, Grace, passed away.

Fernando was a prosperous wholesaler of dry goods and pharmaceuticals, but risked losing everything to help fugitive slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The Keltons took in a runaway named Martha Hartway, who remained with the family for a decade.

Our tour concluded with a visit to the Underground Railroad Learning Station, located on the lower level of the house, where visitors can see a replica of a secret hiding place that helped slaves attain freedom.

Fernando also was a pallbearer in Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession that went through Ohio and ended up in Illinois. Fernando’s son, Oscar, fought in the Civil War against slavery and died in battle.

On the second Sunday of each month, the museum presents “Trails of Hope,” re-enactments of Underground Railroad stories about fugitive slaves and their protectors.

The Kelton Museum and Garden, 586 E. Town St., is first an educational facility, but also a popular wedding destination with a beautiful Victorian garden. For more information, visit keltonhouse.com or call 614-464-2022.

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop: Find retro treats in funky Short North store

Find retro treats in funky Short North store


We’ll most likely never witness a bull in a China shop in our lifetimes. But my husband, Mike, and I recently had the pleasure of seeing a kid in a candy store.

It happened when we took our 6-year-old son, Max, to the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop in the Short North. The candy store in the heart of Columbus’ Arts District is just what you’d imagine it would be – but visibly way better if you’re a kid.

  • Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop
  • Find retro treats in funky Short North store
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As its name suggests, Rocket Fizz is a nostalgic soda pop and candy shop offering thousands of types of candies and more than 500 varieties of bottled sodas from around the world – all colorfully displayed alongside retro posters and gag gifts.

The destination proved to be a real treat for Max and a reminder to us of the allure of candy. As we watched our son move about the store in an apparent sugary haze, we could see a spark of wonderment in his gaze with so much candy within his reach. Dots, Necco Wafers, Pop Rocks, Goobers, Cow Tales, Now and Laters – they’re all there in perfect harmony with face-sized lolly pops and footlong Charleston Chews.

There’s also a neat assortment of Japanese candies, bins of salt-water taffy in such flavors as chili mango and blueberry muffin, and bubble-gum cigarettes (amusingly sold at the cashier’s station).

The store enticed a steady stream of customers (mostly curious adults), who viewed the candies and sodas like they were in one of the many art galleries in the area. Rocket Fizz sells its own zany line of soda flavors based on food, such as bacon with chocolate. They’re made with mountain water from the High Sierras and real sugar.

The prices of candy and the soda are not what you might come to expect. With the high rents of the Short North, some of the candy seemed quite expensive. But the assortment is worth the visit.

The Short North store, 944 N. High St., is among more than 70 stores across the U.S., with dozens more locations set to open, according to rocketfizz.com.

For more information, visit rocketfizz.com or call 614-525-0052.