Columbus Convention

American Institute of Building Design

July 29 - August 1, 2014

A Closer Look: German Village

German Village is a historic neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus. Initially platted in 1814 it was settled largely by German immigrants and their descendants who at one time comprised as much as a third of the population of the entire city of Columbus.

German immigrants who arrived in the South End in the 1850s immediately felt at home: people spoke German in the stores, schools, and churches; their homes were solid yet unpretentious. After work, bakers, stonecutters, storekeepers, carpenters, tanners, bricklayers, and brewery workers relaxed in nearby bier gartens. Most belonged to gymnastic and singing societies. This simple, yet distinctive working-class neighborhood was a little bit of Germany.

German Village grew and developed before anyone thought of zoning regulations. As a result, businesses were scattered throughout the neighborhood, though few blocks had more than one or two commercial buildings. This allowed the Village to retain its predominantly residential character. Typically, a business owner set up shop on the first floor and lived above the store.

Social and economic changes during the first quarter of the 20th century combined to send the neighborhood into decline: As Germans became Americanized, they depended less on the traditional German community. Perhaps most devastating was the onset of World War I, which stirred strong anti-German sentiment in Columbus’ largely American-born population. German books were burned, German newspapers closed; speaking German was also verboten. Officials renamed Schiller, Germania, Kaiser, and Bismarck streets as Whittier, Stewart, Lear, and Lansing Streets. Schiller Park became Washington Park.   Further decline occurred later due to the closing of the local breweries during Prohibition (1920-33).  By the 1950s, the area had become a slum. The city then demolished one-third of the neighborhood (between Main Street and Livingston Avenue) to make way for the new interstate highway system. The remainder of the South End was seriously deteriorated and a prime candidate for leveling.

As the neighborhood faced the possibility of total demolition, Frank Fetch defied common wisdom.  In 1959, he and his father-in-law bought and restored a small cottage on Wall Street.  The following year, Fetch and a group of like-minded people created the German Village Society, to promote the preservation and rehabilitation of the “Old South End.”

At the time, Fetch’s dream of reversing urban blight through preservation and rehabilitation was a radical approach. Ironically, the same characteristics that urban renewal studies of Columbus used to describe “blight” are the very attributes that give German Village its unique and appreciated character today: small lots, narrow streets and the absence of new development. Those attributes brought working-class people armed with dreams and elbow grease back to German Village. Significantly, this Village revitalization has been privately funded without the aid of government programs or subsidies of any kind.

Concerned citizens managed to save the neighborhood’s historic architecture from demolition by successfully lobbying in that same year for a local commission. The German Village Commission and the German Village Historic District were established in 1960. The German Village Commission has power over external changes made to buildings and was responsible for having the entire area rezoned from manufacturing/ commercial to high density residential. This classification eliminated industrial uses and limited commercial uses.

Working together, the Society and the Commission made a positive impact on the Village in a very short time. According to building permit records, in 1962 owners and investors made over $1 million in improvements. At this time, some buildings had price tags under $5,000.

In 1963, the Columbus City Council gave the German Village Commission design review authority. Thus, the Village became one of the nation’s first historic districts with an architectural review board to preserve its character through enforcement powers.

The Society also petitioned and received a listing on the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1974.  The German Village Society presently has nearly 1,000 preservationist-minded members who are dedicated to maintaining the historic quality of the buildings and neighborhood. As a result, German Village is currently considered one of the most desirable areas to live in the city. More than 1,600 buildings have been restored since 1960, and it is credited as one of the most premiere restoration districts in the world.

Today, German Village is a model of urban neighborhood preservation and revitalization - a nationally recognized success story. The average home price in the neighborhood is $377,450 and several are well over $1 million. The Village has a single commercially zoned strip along Livingston Avenue, and the rest of the neighborhood is mixed use. There is some concentration of businesses along Third Street, Mohawk Street and Whittier Avenue, too. The Village is mostly a residential neighborhood of sturdy, red-brick homes with wrought iron fences along tree-lined, brick-paved streets.

The Best of the Prairies: The Westcott House

The Westcott House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906. Construction began in 1906 and completed in 1908. The home had been subdivided into apartments over the years and in disrepair until rediscovered.  The Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy and the Wetcott House Foundation acquired the property and completed restorations in 2005.

The house is one of the best examples of the Prairie Style in the Midwest and open to the public.

The Westcott House is located in Springfield Ohio 40 minutes west of Columbus on I-70.

Tour Times
Wednesday-Friday: 11am, 1pm, 3pm
Saturday: 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 3pm, 4pm
Sunday: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm

Adults $15
Seniors $12

Welcome to the Greatest Circus (House) on Earth!

The Sell's Brothers Circus was founded in 1871 in Dublin, Ohio and quickly became the country's second largest circus. famous for its traveling pack of elephants and crazy side shows. 

One of the founders, Peter Sells, built a home in Victorian Village that you can't miss. The looming, red stone, Romanesque home, with it's dramatically flared roof was built in 1895. It was designed by Frank Packard and is situated on Dennison Avenue, across from the entrance to Goodale Park, just steps from our convention hotel.

The Sells Mansion was home to Peter, his wife, his daughter - and as legends goes, baby circus animals that were kept in the basement during the winters. I'm not sure if it's true, but it's a romantic notion.

Reflecting their affluence and their place in Columbus society, Peter built this Richardson Romanesque mansion in 1895. It was a popular style in the gilded age. The exterior of the Sells mansion is exceptional because it is crowned with a bell cast hipped tile roof, reminiscent of Spanish-Moorish architecture. On the exterior, the house abounds with ornamentation, from broad 4-centered arches, to pointed 2-centered arches; from buttressed brickwork on the corners, to a fanciful chimney. As you'll notice from the photo's, the three original dormers on the front were unfortunately removed at some point during the homes institutional history.

The carriage house, located at 215 Buttles Avenue, shares the same hard-fired brick and other exterior features as the main house, including Moorish arched windows and doors, and the same tile roof. The dramatic flared rooflines of both buildings evoke images of the circus big top; their Moorish influences and tile roof may have been a result of Peter and Mary Sells' trip to California in 1891, where the same styles and materials were (and are) common. 

Much of the original interior details were removed during the years the house served as office space but the front stair remained mostly intact. The rail was hand-carved, and the balusters were, too—they were not turned. As you can see from the photos, each of the balusters was carved in a plain, but stately design, with a slender, square-sided taper.

The balusters return to square at the base, and are locked in by fillets. The restoration carpenters replaced several missing balusters. Finding or carving the replacements could not have been easy. 

The Sell's family time in the mansion was unhappy and short lived, Shortly after moving in, they got divorced amidst scandal and sold the house. Peter's business barely outlasted his marriage as in 1905, the Sells Brothers Circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth after Peter's death the year before. 

The mansion has since passed through several owners' hands and has undergone a variety of restoration. While you're here, visit Goodale Park and make it a point to take a peek at the Circus House across from the Northwest corner. It is not open to the public, but is definitely worth a look from the exterior.

Once Upon a Countryside...

Looking for peek at Ohio’s countryside as part of your convention planning? Ohio’s Tuscarawas and Holmes county area, only an hour and a half away from Columbus, could be the ticket. Rich in Amish farmlands and old fashioned hospitality, these rural counties offer a look at the farms, people and ways that helped make Ohio the mainstay of Midwest agriculture.

In the heart of Amish country, Kidron, you will find the nostalgic Lehman’s Hardware. Berlin offers Amish and primitive crafts at auctions and festivals all summer long. Check out the Holmes County Fair for more details; August 4th through the 9th. Just a little farther East are the Breitenbach Wine Cellars. In Dover you will find David Warther's ivory ship carvings along with his father's ivory trains. If you decide to build this location into your plans, I recommend staying at the Inn at Honey Run "beehives."

Is history more your tilt? Stop by the Ohio Historical Society’s impeccably restored communities of Zoar during its Harvest Festival, August 2nd and 3rd. Or you can venture over to Roscoe Village on the old Ohio-Erie Canal. Due to the variety of lakes in the area, Muskingum Watershed District's focus is on fishing, boating and nature. And nearby, the Salt Fork State Park has a lodge and cabins to extend your stay. 

The fact is, the food will be hot traveling this section of Ohio; you won’t have to wait too long for anything, and the people will be glad to see you. But of course, you will be visiting during the peak tourist season of one of Ohio's main attractions. So you may have to wait a bit for a pretzel.

Object d'Art

If you’re lookin’ for refined culture, Columbus is the place to be. Our premier attraction is The Columbus Museum of Art, which has a vibrant collection of fine and modern art, and is in the process of constructing a new wing to expand its collection. Steps from our hotel you will find our newest museum of contemporary art, the Pizzuti Collection, featuring the most amazing art from the private collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti.

If you’re more interested in gardens and large-scale art installations, look no further than our Franklin Park Conservatory. The grand Victorian-style glass greenhouse was built in 1895 and is known today as the Palm House. The conservatory has many rare and unique plant specimens, a huge live butterfly room, a collection of spectacular Chihuly glass, and my all time favorite, the Bonsai trees.

Maybe, mechanical art is more your speed. The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum and the A.D. Farrow Harley Davidson Museum could be just the ticket. A.D.Farrow is the oldest, continuously operated Harley Davidson dealership in America. 

We also have the Jack Nicklaus Museum for the golf aficionados in the group. Along with the Doll and Toy Museum, the Motts Military Museum, and the Central Ohio Fire Museum in an historic Engine House No.5 building. 

For children and adults alike, be sure you make time to visit COSI, the Center of Science and Industry. The current featured exhibition, is the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes featuring interactive crimes to be solved. “Come at once, the game is afoot!”

For whatever you fancy, Columbus has more cultural enrichment attractions than there is time to see them. If you would like more detailed descriptions or schedules for these locations, don’t be afraid to send us a note over on the Contact page! 


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