"Brick Streets of the South Side will teem with merry people Sunday afternoon - the home tour of the German Village Society promises to be the biggest thing since the park statue of Schiller was dedicated July 4, 1891."

"Brick Streets of the South Side will teem with merry people Sunday afternoon - the home tour of the German Village Society promises to be the biggest thing since the park statue of Schiller was dedicated July 4, 1891."

These words, originally printed in the June 16, 1960 edition of the Columbus Citizen-Journal, helped promote what has since become a neighborhood and city tradition - the German Village Society Haus und Garten Tour.

The first Haus und Garten Tour in 1960 was planned for the public to see what was happening in the South Side.

Since Frank Fetch's open house at his story-and-a-half cottage on Wall Street in 1959, the public's curiosity had peaked about both the neighborhood and the newly formed German Village Society.

As the neighborhood saw more coverage in the press, due in extra large part by reporters Ben Hayes and Jenice Jordan, our sidewalks saw more foot traffic and our streetscapes saw more "SOLD" signs.

But there was still the nagging problem of proving to disbelievers that old houses could in fact still be livable in the 1960s. Since that is an idea much easier to show than tell, a tour of homes was planned to showcase impressive renovation and landscaping work.

The first houses featured on the tour covered a large geographic area - as did the German Village at that time. If you are interested in recreating your own walking tour of the 1960 Haus und Garten Tour, visit 576 S. Third, 660 City Park, 41 Sycamore, 693 City Park, 44 Stimmel, 780 S. High, 41 W. Columbus, 820 S. Fifth, 316 E. Mithoff, and 914 City Park.

Actually, anyone who borrows from Blockbuster Video has been to 780 S. High, 41 W. Columbus looks pretty different today, and 316 Mithoff (like Blockbuster Video) isn't considered within the Village boundaries.

Early tours often featured art and craft sales, tram rides from house to house, requests that no spike heels be worn and sponsorships from the fledgling German Village Society. Somehow while very little has changed in tour production, tons has changed in tour production.

Considering that many people didn't think anyone would pay $1 to tour South End homes, it's amazing the tour got off the ground as it did. But our society founders were dedicated and determined to hit the ground running. Thanks to their spirit and initiative we haven't looked back since. (In fact, as we face our 50th anniversary head-on, we're looking far, far ahead from here.)

That early Columbus Citizen-Journal article promoting the first tour included a brief interview with Msgr. Edmund A. Burkley, pastor of St. Mary's Church, who said, "Go into the backyards. There's where the beauty of the South Side is."

Tour chair Norm Hall and Garten guru Bert Stevens have made sure that this year's gardens still hold true to that thought don't miss the 50th Annual Haus und Garten Tour on June 28 (or as we prefer to note, "as always, the last Sunday in June") to see a stellar collection of homes and gardens. The 50th is not to be missed.

Jody Graichen is director of Historical Preservation Programs for the German Village Society and columnist for ThisWeek Community Newspapers.

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