COLUMNS

As It Were: System of street names, numbering brought organization to Columbus

Ed Lentz
Guest Columnist

Historians, genealogists and others in search of the people from the past often find it useful to find the places those people once lived. This often can be exasperatingly difficult in Columbus. 

I might have had a forebear who lived on Australia Street. When I look at a current map of Columbus, there is no Australia Street. Sometimes I can find a missing street by looking at early maps of the city. Sometimes I can’t.  

Ed Lentz

Even more frustrating is the sinking feeling when a certain street number – like 101– can exist in more than one place on the same street, especially on long streets like High, Third and Fourth streets. 

How are these problems resolved? 

To understand how this had occurred, it is necessary to recall that Columbus is not only a city full of interesting neighborhoods, many of which were little towns in their own right, but also that most of the near west side of downtown was once the frontier village of Franklinton. Most of the near south side was the “Alt Sud Ende” or Old South End of German Columbus. And the Short North and the near east side were little villages, as well.  

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Each of these areas had been platted and laid out as “additions” to Columbus, whose original boundaries ended at Livingston Avenue on the south, Nationwide Boulevard on the north, Parsons Avenue on the east and the Scioto River on the west.  

Each of these villages often independently numbered the houses and buildings along their streets. Thus, the same number could be found more than once. A unified system of street numbering for the city of Columbus was not enacted until March 1887. That ordinance retroactively renumbered a lot of streets, ensuring proper numbering would occur thereafter. For the most part, it has.  

Street naming also has had its problems. 

A long street might pass through several neighborhoods and change names a few times as it did. City officials did not make a major effort to solve this problem until 1872 – 60 years after Columbus was founded in 1812. By that time, a lot of name changing was needed. 

For the benefit of those looking for lost streets, the ordinance read: 

“Depot and Kerr Street changed to Third Street; Phelan and Parsons Street to Fourth Street; Latham and George to Fifth; East and Siegel to Sixth; Medary to Sixth; Church to Seventh; Cleveland Avenue to Eighth Street; Centre Street, Eighth Street extending from Broad to Oak, and Eighth Street extending from South Public Lane southwardly to Ninth Street; Morrison, Pike and Gift Streets and Northrup Alley to Eleventh Street; Albert and Cedar Streets to Fifteenth; Australia to Seventeenth; Grant and Corn to Nineteenth;  

“Windsor Lane and Mulberry Street to Twentieth Street; East Public Lane to Parsons Avenue; Expansion Street and Public, Medary, Converse and Prentiss Alleys to Capital Alley; South Public Lane to Livingston Avenue; Sycamore Street to Noble Street; South and Franklin Alleys and Armstrong Street to Stauring Alley; Johnstown Road and John Street to Mount Vernon Avenue; Centre Alley to Pearl Street; Clinton and Swan Alleys to Miami Alley; Oak Alley to Columbus Street; Third Alley to Court Street;  

“Fourth Alley, Division Street and South Lane to Beck Street; Fifth Alley to Willow Alley; First Alley to Brewers Alley; Franklin Avenue to State Street; Second and Ball Alleys to Rhine Street; Fifth Alley to Linden Alley; Mulberry and Sterrit Alleys to Lafayette Street; North Street to Chestnut Street; Wilson to Russell; North Avenue, with the street extending westwardly to Fourth Avenue; State Avenue to Scioto Street; Mechanic Street to Mitchell Street; 

“Plumb to Lucas; Prospect and Short Streets to Kelley Alley; Patch Street to University; Perry to Schiller; North and Straight Alleys to Lazelle Street; Last Street to Randolph; Meadow Lane to Bryden Street; Elm Alley to Bismarck Alley; South Street to Fulton; Bank Alley to Park Street; North Alley to Plymouth Alley.”  

It should be noted in passing that some of these streets would have their names changed again. An example is the renaming of certain streets in German Village during World War I to remove names like “Kaiser” and “Bismarck” from local street signs. Those street names never were changed back.   

But most of the street names cited in the 1872 ordinance remain with the names they were given at that time. And thankfully, our system of street numbering, with even numbers to the north and west and odd numbers to the south and east, has remained the same. 

To the frustrated researcher, at least that is a bit of consolation. 

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.