I visited Ohio over the Presidents’ Day weekend, which was surprisingly fitting: did you know that eight presidents were from Ohio? My first presidential run-in was a comically small plaque at a gas station commemorating Rutherford B. Hayes’ birthplace (don’t worry, I hear they do have something better in the works). Not having been to Columbus before, I asked for your recommendations and you guys blew me away with your responses (you guys are the best, thank you)! It turns out Columbus has some amazing historic buildings. My favorite spot of all was German Village.
German Village is located in south Columbus and was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800s. “Die alte sud ende” (the old south end) had a German newspaper, schools, and businesses. By 1865 a full third of Columbus’s population was German. The lack of zoning laws at the time led to a primarily residential community in German Village with shops distributed throughout. Shops generally had residential space on the second floor and the architecture of the neighborhood has a cohesive quality: slate roofs, decorated lintels, duplexes, and stone stoops abound.
The decline of German Village in the early 20th century was a combination of new generations stepping away from their German roots and a growing anti-German sentiment around World War I and World War II. Prohibition (1920-1933) forced the German breweries to close their doors. The neighborhood was subsequently zoned for manufacturing and residential areas suffered. By the 1950s, following the demolition of a swath of neighborhood to accommodate the interstate, the entire neighborhood was under threat.
In 1960, the German Village Society was established to promote preservation of the community. Columbus officially renamed the area German Village in the same year and the German Village Historic District and a historic commission were created. It worked. The Village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and more than 1,600 buildings have since been restored. The district is recognized internationally for its preservation successes. Today, the commercial Livingston Avenue invites locals and visitors to stop and stay a while. The brick streets slow cars and create a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly environment. In the midst of a big city, German Village is a quiet respite complete with history and a thriving social scene.
Sources and Further Reading:
Columbus Neighborhoods on German Village.