Compared to nearby cities, Whitehall is relatively young.
While the surrounding cities of Bexley, Groveport, Gahanna, Reynoldsburg and Westerville can place their origins in the 1800s, Whitehall did not officially exist until its 1947 incorporation as a village.
According to a July 1950 story in The Columbus Dispatch, the village in that year's federal census was just 93 residents short of the 5,000 required for city status.
At the time, the housing boom had not yet taken hold in the village, whose population was concentrated in the Cedarhurst, Glencoe, the Bernhard and Jaeger housing additions, and the Fairway Gardens Apartments -- previously known as Fairport Apartments and later, the Commons at Royal Landing.
A number of working farms could be found in the 3.5 square miles that initially comprised the village, with its 1947 population of 2,300 residents living in 750 housing units.
Village business initially was conducted at Truro Township Hall, 680 S. Yearling Road, in a small structure that once stood across from Whitehall-Yearling High School. Not long after the village's incorporation, it moved to a new, larger structure at 608 S. Yearling Road, which served as its municipal building beginning in 1950.
The current building at 360 S. Yearling Road, dedicated in October 1962, was built immediately south of the second one.
Gaining city status brings numerous advantages to communities. Some of those benefits were outlined and promoted by the Whitehall Civic Club at the time:
"To assure the people of the community control of the use of their tax money; to guarantee continued local control of our schools; to protect property value; to encourage retail stores, post offices, banks, etc., to locate in this area; and you are more closely affected by your local government than by all other branches."
Perhaps the greatest motivator for becoming a city was the fear of the village being annexed into the city of Columbus.
Another federal census was not to occur until 1960, which would show that the population had passed the 5,000-resident threshold to qualify for city status. But a law passed in 1955 would allow city status to be attained for a community if 5,000 registered voters could be counted among its residents.
Enough concern existed about the possibility of annexation that the civic club conducted drives that year to encourage residents to register as voters with the Franklin County Board of Elections.
Two such efforts failed to motivate potential voters in the village -- even after the club offered free transportation to the board of elections annex at Mound and High streets in Columbus. The Whitehall Gazette noted in its Nov. 24, 1955, edition that lack of interest in attaining city status might exist among residents living in rental housing, who might not feel grounded in the community, and therefore may be less likely to register. The specter of annexation loomed more than ever over the village, which by then was thought to have a population in excess of 17,000.
Following the unsuccessful voter-registration efforts, a push to conduct a special census took root.
At a Feb. 21, 1956, meeting of village council, village solicitor James Butler was instructed to prepare for the next meeting an ordinance for appropriation for $1,180 to begin a head count by the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to Dispatch coverage, during the meeting, resident Hazel Baker warned that there should be no movement toward annexation, saying, "I'll have you know there is lots of opposition 'round here ... I'll fight to my dying day against any such action. Why should we join Columbus and help them pay their debts?"
The subsequent count of residents that followed showed a population of 18,096, and city status was afforded the village in April 1956.
The new city continued to grow rapidly, revealing an increase in population to 20,818 in the 1960 census, followed by its highest-ever count of 25,263 in 1970.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the city's population in 2019 at 18,926 -- consistent with the city's average population counts beginning in 1980, and with the trend toward smaller numbers of household members throughout the country.
The city has seen a gradual population increase since 2010, according to the bureau, and should expect that trend to continue, especially with the addition of new residential units throughout the city, as well as the anticipated increases that will be brought about by new developments at East Broad Street and Hamilton Road.
Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.