Where 161 intersects I-71 was an important place in the early 1960's. That is where the "North Freeway" began. Columbus plowed its freeways through downtown before the interstates across Ohio were begun. Therefore, the part that is now known as I-71 was called the North Freeway back then. They began construction at 161 and worked their way south towards downtown. They reached 11th avenue on August 21, 1961. It took another year, until August, 1962, to construct the massive railroad underpass under the Pennsylvania (now Norfolk Southern) Grogan Yard, and get the freeway to 5th avenue. On September 11, 1963 the city installed a traffic light at the on and off ramps to 161. In 1966 they widened 161 from two lanes to its current width. Finally, in 1967 the section of I-270 between I-71 and High Street opened.
So 161 was the perfect place for a modern hotel and restaurant. The Howard Johnson's was divided into hotel and restaurant properties. The restaurant towards the end of its life was called "The Elephant Bar". The hotel became a sleazy crack joint and the whole enterprise was demolished in 2003. Today, an Advanced Auto Parts sits on the property, and thanks to the low income apartments nearby, Giant Eagle is forced to hire a policeman to stand in their store all day. But wait, I hear you cry, weren't there two HoJo's in Worthington? Indeed there was another, located on High Street across from Graceland Shopping Center, where the "Melting Pot" (formerly "Ground Round") is located. As the picture below shows, this Howard Johnsons was here in the 30's, when Graceland Shopping Center was a horse farm and when that portion of High Street was a country road between Columbus and Worthington. Its the same building too.