German Village Gazette

Village Notebook

Book discussion promises to raise questions, eyebrows

Tuesday August 13, 2013 10:58 AM

If you haven't yet picked up your copy of A Historical Guidebook to Old Columbus by Bob Hunter with photographs by Lucy Wolfe, you must.

Not should, must.

It's such a fascinating read, and promises an equally fascinating discussion on Friday night, Aug. 16, at the Meeting Haus.

Hunter's book is quite literally packed with history.

Columbus is home to more "firsts" than I realized, and if he hasn't captured every single one, I can't imagine what is left.

First filling station in the country? In Columbus.

First and only city (and state) to be home to two consecutive Miss Americas? Columbus, Ohio, thank you very much.

One thing we know about German Villagers is that they're from everywhere.

But this book proves that character is in Columbus and German Village's DNA ... our bricks are steeped in it.

The cast of characters Mr. Hunter has discovered and brought back to life in this book make it very clear this city has hosted everyone of every type of every background and then some.

And then there are the buildings. I've seen old city directories listing residential addresses on South Third Street downtown, and did my best to picture what that must have been like.

Give it a shot ... imagine growing up across the street from the Statehouse.

And, now, imagine the senses of wonder, responsibility, obligation, respect, trepidation and frustration living there could have evoked.

Hunter and Wolfe included an historic photograph of the residential block in the shadow of the Statehouse, and also included images of that same block later when just one of the original houses remained ... until a parking lot took its place.

The price of progress can seem sad if you only focus on the lost houses.

But as the residential structures went, the commercial structures were built, and today many of those remain and make this bustling metropolis bustle all the more.

While reading this book I've thought again and again how lucky Columbus is to have neighborhoods such as German Village.

Living in these old homes and making them work for today takes imagination. But it takes no imagination to visualize a typical Columbus neighborhood in the late 1800s -- all it takes is a walk through German Village.

The fact that German Village has such an impressive residential/commercial mix makes it easy to feel the same energy the neighborhoods' earliest residents felt when walking to and from work, market, church and school.

And of course German Village was typical in the fact that it was completely atypical.

It was an ethnic enclave. It was home to those well-to-do and those picking themselves up by their bootstraps.

It was a densely populated and diverse urban neighborhood. And so much of that survives today.

My favorite question Hunter raises is, "when is a cemetery not a cemetery?"

And if you wonder which cemetery he writes of, pick up a copy of the book at the Meeting Haus Visitors Center and join us Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Brent Warner Fest Hall at the Meeting Haus.

I'm thrilled and honored to get to moderate the discussion between the audience and authors, and am so excited for this event to kick-off Preservation Weekend in a big and informative way.

The historical facts, storytelling and spectacular photography in this book make it a keeper, and make me want to walk every inch of the city.

I dare say, I can promise it will make you feel the same and I so wish I had enough time this weekend to take that walk.

Please join us. You'll be happy you did.

Jody Graichen, German Village Society historic preservation consultant submitted the Village Notebook column.