As it were

Grandview: where the river bends

By ED LENTZ
Tuesday December 11, 2012 2:56 PM

Grandview Heights is one of my favorite places in Columbus. I like this part of the world because it is not just a place. It is a community.

And any number of other places around Columbus could take a cue or two from this place that has given the word "neighborhood" real meaning in central Ohio.

People having been calling this part of the world home for at least the last couple of thousand years. The Adena people -- part of that elusive group we call the Mound Builders -- lived and died along the north branch of the Scioto River for several hundred years. We know that because well into the Twentieth Century there was an Adena Mound near the intersection of Goodale Avenue and Grandview Avenue.

The so-called "historic" Indian tribes were not far behind them. They are called the historic Indians because somebody -- French, English or Indian -- left behind a written record of who they were. They included the Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware and Mingo, most of whom occupied villages in central Ohio in the years before the American Revolution. Their villages lined both sides of the valley of the Scioto. And since most of the Wyandot villages were located between what is now Columbus and Dublin along the Scioto, it is perhaps appropriate that a Wyandotte Road is an integral part of Grandview Heights.

The modern history of central Ohio begins a little more than 235 years ago with the successful -- from our perspective -- conclusion of the American Revolution. Finding itself with a lot of land and not much money, the newly formed United States decided to pay its veterans in land to be found north and west of the Ohio River.

Various tracts were set aside for specific groups in what is now Ohio and after a bloody series of wars with Native Americas, began to be settled. One of those land grants ran from the Scioto River east and from Fifth Avenue on the north to Refugee Road on the south. Set aside for people from Nova Scotia who had lost their property because of their loyalty to the United States, the land grant was called the Refugee Tract. Most Refugees never made it to Ohio. They sold their land warrants to speculators who then sold the land to people eager to settle in the Ohio Country. By 1803, there were enough people living here to create the State of Ohio. And by 1812, the site of Columbus had been picked to become the state capital.

Through those years and most of the years down past the America Civil War, most of the area north of Columbus along the Scioto was farm country. There were some quarries along the river and in the 1830s, the original Franklin County poor house was constructed near the river. The poor house later moved on to a new location. But the building that housed it still stands and is a private home.

There were few roads in the early days. What is now Dublin Road had once been an Indian trail and later became an early byway in the new state. Fifth Avenue was a path along the north border of the Refugee Tract but was little more than a dirt trail until well after the Civil War.

What really changed everything were the growth of Columbus and the arrival of railroads in the years after 1850. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, many people with wealth and influence who had once lived in walking distance of downtown were looking for new homes removed from the noise, smoke, and congestion of downtown Columbus. They were looking for what we today would call a suburb.

The city had seen the emergence of streetcar suburbs after the Civil War in virtually every direction from the downtown. But some people wanted to live even farther away and could afford to do so. To a growing number of people the ridges to the east and north of the Scioto River valley looked very attractive indeed. The main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad passed west out of the city along the base of the eastern ridge and soon was making a "flag stop" at Grandview Avenue and at a modest station at Fifth Avenue and Dublin Road. The Hocking Valley Railroad moved north along the west side of the Olentangy River valley and served a growing population in that area. By the turn of the century streetcar service had arrived as did an interurban railway.

In 1890, George Urlin built a magnificent new home where Summit Chase is today. His wife ascending to the top of its tower was reputed to have said, "What a grand view!" and a new community coming into being would eventually have that name. What is now the city of Grandview Heights celebrated its 96th birthday in 2012. In only four short years, the town will have much to remember as it celebrates its centennial.

My thanks to the people of the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society for help with this story.

Local historial and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.

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