German Village History is So Interesting

German Village History

Isolated by language and social traditions, the Columbus Germans of the 19th-century were a self-contained group. As their numbers increased, German names became identified with publishing, industry, education and religion activities in the city. The German Lutherans were particularly active in the field of education, founding Capital University. However the real heart of the South End were the families of the workingman ~ the brewery workers, carpenters, brick and stonemasons. This group built the compact brick houses with small gardens and grape arbors.

The community thrived through the end of the 19th- and into the 20th-century, until the threat of war with Germany. During the years of WWI life was traumatic for German Americans in South Columbus, as they were quickly caught in a bitter crossfire of propaganda and patriotism. Overnight, everything German was denounced. Study of German in Columbus public schools was first restricted and later banned. Books in German were tossed onto lighted woodpiles and burned at the foot of the statue of the German Poet Schiller, which the German American community had given to the City of Columbus.

City Council responded to the wave of anti-German sentiment, changing the name of Schiller Park to Washington Park and renaming many streets in the area. Businesses eliminated all German suggestions in their names; organizations dropped their German language rituals; and the only remaining German newspaper, Der Westbote, ceased publication. During the WWII years of the 40s, all activities and resources were directed toward winning the war and little was done to maintain properties. Neither men nor materials were available for repairs. Thus the South End began to fall into shabbiness and disrepair. After WWII, new housing developments sprang up in the North and East sections of town and there was an exodus from the South End. It was an exceptionally difficult decline for the residents who had stayed in their homes and continued to care for them.

The restoration of our neighborhood began with the renovation of a Dutch Double by Frank Fetch. After completion, a Sunday afternoon open house was held, so the public could witness its wonderful recovery. Mr. Fetch put out a writing tablet for those with an interest in forming a group to promote restoration to sign. This was the beginning of the German Village Society.

Beginning in 1960, with the formation of the German Village Society, Frank Fetch led the way through the labyrinth of government and established the area as a protected historic preservation district. In 1963 the Columbus City Council gave the German Village Commission design review authority over exterior changes to structures within the district. In 1975, German Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Purchases and restorations of buildings in German Village increased yearly, and by the 1980′s German Village gained national recognition as a leading historic preservation district. Property values were increasing, and German Village was becoming one of the most desirable places to live in Central Ohio.

The Last Sunday In June 1960 The first Haus und Garten Tour attracted media attention and lured hundreds of visitors to the neighborhood to see eight restored homes and two gardens. It was a modest beginning for what has become one of Columbus’ most popular ongoing annual events.