The Fourth of July is upon us and, as luck would have it, the South End has some history when it comes to this particular holiday. Some history is direct, some a little more roundabout. Regardless of the size of the celebration, what counts most is that our neighborhood forefathers were proud to be newly American and thrilled to celebrate the festivities in their new country. As villagers can boast today, these early residents knew how to throw a party.

The Fourth of July is upon us and, as luck would have it, the South End has some history when it comes to this particular holiday. Some history is direct, some a little more roundabout. Regardless of the size of the celebration, what counts most is that our neighborhood forefathers were proud to be newly American and thrilled to celebrate the festivities in their new country. As villagers can boast today, these early residents knew how to throw a party.

Schiller Park has been (and shall always be!) the collective backyard and public gathering space for villagers. In its earliest days, much like today, it provided wide-open space in a neighborhood known for its density. Originally called Stewart's Grove, the park served as a natural spot for festivities of just about any kind.

In 1830, Stewart's Grove hosted the first documented Fourth of July celebration in Columbus. I don't know much about the celebration, but I know it occurred and I trust it was well-attended, though the area was sparsely populated.

Over the next 60 years, the park was purchased by the city of Columbus, hosted German singing festivals, served as a mustering location for men going off to fight the Mexican-American War and continued to serve, on an everyday basis, as a gathering spot for casual get-togethers and family outings.

It was during this time that the German community grew in affluence and gained political, business and financial prestige. The Suabian Society, a German men's club, was instrumental in raising funds to purchase a statue to honor a fellow countryman, noted dramatist and globally known Renaissance man Friedrich von Schiller. Schiller lived from 1759 to 1805 and was from the very region of Germany that so many Columbus Germans had emigrated.

On July 4, 1891, the Schiller statue was placed in the park by the prominent German community. It was universally loved, repeatedly captured by artists and a source of great pride for the hard-working residents living in Columbus' South End. (Sound familiar?)

As a way of thanking the German community for the gift of the Schiller statue, the city of Columbus renamed the park. City Park became Schiller Park in 1905. In June of that year, a celebration commemorating Schiller's death in 1805 began at Washington and Broad streets and 5,000 people marched to the newly renamed park for a day of festivities.

Regional and national pride, a growing sense of community and the simple yet complex joy of being American drove early Columbus Germans to celebrate their new home while showing appreciation for their German heritage. In many ways, this was the same "today and yesterday" issue villagers face today.

Villagers are good at living for the moment, acknowledging each day's treasures or hardships and existing very much in the now - all while paying tribute to yesterday by maintaining homes built more than 100 years ago and accepting that they are the caretakers of these homes, just as future homeowners will be.

Villagers are contemporary and yet classic, vintage and historic. Villagers are absolutely 21st century (and maybe beyond) as they sip coffee outside of buildings constructed in the 19th century. Villagers walk brick streets laid by former residents 10 decades ago and fight to maintain those same streets so future residents can do the same.

Like the earliest residents before us, we are among the best our city has to offer, and we are staunchly proud of both our heritage and our current status. We know how to recognize greatness, both large and small (Did you remember to attend the Haus und Garten Tour volunteer appreciation supper?) and know how to celebrate all the good that comes our way.

That's why, on this Fourth of July, you will likely hear parties throughout the streets and alleys of German Village as residents honor the nation's independence while sharing good times, kindred spirits and beautiful spaces with their neighbors.

If you are in Schiller Park doing the very same, know that almost 200 years ago, the city's celebration of the Fourth of July was right where you stand, and our neighborhood really has seen it all along the way.

Jody Graichen is director of historic preservation programs for the German Village Society.