Inside are the remains of a magician and a circus troupe.

I've seen a reference to Green Lawn Abbey. What is it? For starters, you got the name right. It's “Green Lawn” for both the abbey and the cemetery, not “Greenlawn,” although the avenue leading to both is spelled as a single word. The abbey is at 700 Greenlawn Ave., west of Harmon Avenue, and the cemetery is at the west end of Greenlawn. Although it's not part of the cemetery, the abbey has an associated function: It's a mausoleum (“abbey” means a convent or monastery but also a sanctuary). Built in 1927, it has room for 600 interments.

The abbey's design employs classical elements; its exterior is granite, with paired stairs leading to a central, gable-roofed pavilion. Rectangular end pavilions give it a shallow U shape. The marble interior features floor-to-ceiling columns, marble mantels and exceptional art deco stained glass windows. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the Abbey is the final resting place of several Columbus notables such as Thurston the Magician, members of the Sells circus family and even the brother of retailer J.C. Penney.

After the abbey had been deteriorating for many years, the Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association was formed, and members have been steadily restoring this impressive building since 2006. Cremated remains are accepted for interment, but the abbey is also a place where “life and learning” are celebrated. GLAPA offers regular programs on classical architecture, art and history.

What is the history of the Southern Orchards area in south Columbus? As in most cities, Columbus grew outward from a central point—Capitol Square, which predated actual settlement. Homes and commercial buildings blossomed around the square and then the side streets, and soon the square became all commercial, with homes built farther out on streets such as East Broad and East Town. After the Civil War, many streets extended into open country, where canny landowners platted new subdivisions to capture continuing city development.

Livingston Avenue was one and is an informal divide between central and south Columbus. By the mid-1870s, land south of Livingston—today opposite Nationwide Children's Hospital—was subdivided into streets and lots near some sizable orchards. Within 20 years, the area filled quickly, necessitating more expansion, with one parcel east of 22nd Street given the name Olde Orchard. As time went, on the whole area became known as Southern Orchards, to differentiate itself from the Olde Orchard area developing on the city's east side, southeast of what's now John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Today the Southern Orchards neighborhood (and city planning area) is bounded by Whittier Street and Parsons, Livingston and Linwood avenues. It has a population between 3,000 and 4,000, and the Southern Orchards Civic Association watches over and advocates for the neighborhood.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.

Sources: Kate and Tom Matheny, GLAPA;; Aaron O'Donovan, Columbus Metropolitan Library; CML map collection and city directories; online sources