Columbus evolves as influences from the past are revisited.
On the south side of East Main Street, just east of the I-70/71 split, there’s a big, three-story building that looks like a house. It must have an interesting story.
It does, indeed. William Neil came to Columbus with his wife, Hannah, in 1812 and soon became a major entrepreneur. His stagecoaches connecting the city to other parts of the state got him crowned the “Stagecoach King,” and he established the Neil House Hotel across High Street from the Statehouse (there were three successive hotels). Today, that’s the site of the Huntington Center.
Neil’s farm became the campus of Ohio State University after his home there burned in the 1860s. Hannah, herself, was no slouch. Known as the “Guardian Angel of Columbus,” she committed to volunteer work helping people in need, including those passing through town on the National Road. Hannah formalized these efforts in 1858, establishing the Industrial School Association on Maple Street to teach skills to poor children. That sounds a little Dickensian, but it was intended to help young people develop skills useful in the workforce.
The organization also helped children affected by the Civil War. Needing more space, it moved to the Neville Mansion at 727 E. Main St. in 1868 and stayed there for 109 years. Hannah died of pneumonia early in 1868, and the organization was renamed the Hannah Neil Mission and Home for the Friendless. After the Hannah Neil Mission moved out, the building was converted to office space. The Ohio Arts Council was a longtime tenant. Today, Hannah Neil’s work continues in the form of a residential facility for at-risk children called the Heritage of Hannah Neil, located on Obetz Road, south of the city.
Driving down Sunbury Road recently, I noticed a neighborhood called Teakwood Heights, just north of Ohio Dominican University. When was it developed?
Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when a lot of city residents were moving to suburban neighborhoods, many people in the city’s African-American population wanted to live in these new areas, too.
However, discrimination—both subtle and not so subtle—was still rampant. Builders would not sell, and banks would not lend.
Enter Paul and Edith Turner and Amos and Lovey Carter. They decided to create a neighborhood where they and others would be welcome. So, they bought vacant land on Sunbury Road just north of ODU and divided it into 23 building lots. Word traveled fast—there was no need to advertise—and the neighborhood soon expanded to 77 house sites. Among the people buying there were doctors, lawyers, educators and other professionals.
Buyers purchased lots and then hired architects and builders. In fact, several house designs were publicized in home and garden magazines of the time, and some families had to go as far as New York City to find financing. Construction was between 1962 and 1976. The Teakwood Heights Civic Association was formed in 1964 to promote safety, quality family living, growth and marketability. Many first- and second-generation owners still live in Teakwood Heights.
Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the answer might appear in a future column.