Making the switch from architecture to podiatry required some adjustments for Dr. Scot F. Bertolo.

Making the switch from architecture to podiatry required some adjustments for Dr. Scot F. Bertolo.

Transforming a once-controversial stone structure on North High Street in Beechwold back into a medical office involved mostly minor cosmetic work.

In settling on a name for his new practice, Bertolo didn't have to change a thing from his first choice, and he is still managing to pay homage to the past of 4485 N. High.
"I had no clue about who was here, what this was," Bertolo said last week.

Bertolo most recently had been working for Columbus Neighborhood Health Center, a five-location operation that resulted from the 1998 merger of seven community health centers. Columbus Neighborhood Health Center provides primary care to mostly uninsured and often homeless patients in generally inner-city parts of Columbus.

Bertolo, who said he has offered to continue to care for his current patients, had decided to name his new practice Urban Podiatry after the settings of his most recent work.

Then, after leasing agent Terri Dusseau gave him a key to 4485 N. High St. so he could get a feel for the place, Bertolo went into the attic. There the chiropractic foot and ankle surgeon found a sign that practically made him a believer in fate.

The sign had hung outside the building for decades, advising passers-by it was the office of Dr. J.P. Urban.

"The hair went up on the back of my neck, and I thought, 'That's too bizarre,' " Bertolo said.

John Paul Urban was 82 when he died on May 22, 1993, according to his obituary in The Columbus Dispatch. A 1935 graduate of Ohio State University Medical School, Urban was at one time president of the staff at the old White Hospital, now the site of the Victorian Gate condo complex between North High and Park streets south of Buttles Avenue.

It was the general practitioner's first wife, Mildred "Migg" Urban, who designed both a home and the office on the property at North High Street and West Dominion Boulevard.

Migg Urban's father, a local contractor, built the house in 1932, the year his daughter graduated from OSU. The office building was completed six years later.

Before her death in 2003, Migg Urban, an artist and photographer, bequeathed the slate-roofed, fieldstone structures to the Knowlton School of Architecture at her alma mater.

Three years later, controversy arose when OSU officials appeared to be poised to sell the Urban home and office, along with a vacant lot, to a developer who wanted to create a 20-unit condo complex. Neighbors were up in arms, the Clintonville Area Commission objected strenuously and then-state Rep. Jim Hughes threatened to get involved before the developer, after pairing the request back to 12 units, walked way.

Now, the former medical office has been turned back into a medical office - fittingly, by a graduate of the Knowlton School of Architecture.

"It just seemed very odd that here are these properties in the possession of the school I graduated from," Bertolo said. "I've kind of come full circle."

Bertolo, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the youngest of nine children, was initially a pre-med major but switched to architecture, with a minor in chemistry. Following a fellowship to study architecture in Italy, Bertolo landed a job with a mid-size firm in the Columbus area.

Bertolo spent four years as an architect before deciding his interests were in medicine.

The podiatrist, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, said that he enjoyed his work with Columbus Neighborhood Health Center, but that cutbacks in federal funding reduced his to a part-time position and provided the impetus to strike out on his own.

In driving along North High Street scouting possible locations for an office, Bertolo said he saw the "For Lease" sign at 4485 N. High. He contacted leasing agent Dusseau, a friend of the late Migg Urban's who had been given the right to rent the old office building. When he went inside, Bertolo said he realized it had once been a doctor's office.
Then he found the sign in the attic, and all doubts were erased.

"There were just way too many sets of circumstances to ignore," Bertolo said.

By e-mail, Dusseau wrote that her late friend would have been delighted at the latest developments relating to the structures she designed.

"Having known Migg for some time and having had the chance to work closely with her on the original restoration of her building in 1993, I believe it is safe to say that she would be extremely pleased to see what Dr. Bertolo has done with it," Dusseau wrote. "Perhaps she would agree with the fact that it has never looked more beautiful - both inside and out."

Bertolo said that he has spoken with the dean of the school of architecture about possibly turning the former house back into a home of his own. It had been the university's plans to use it for temporary housing for adjunct and visiting faculty.

A grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Urban Podiatry is planned for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6.

Bertolo finds it gratifying to return a place of healing back to its original purpose.

"Absolutely," he said. "It brings it full circle, too."