An endangered landmark on the Near East Side

There’s a very large church on East Main Street at Seymour Avenue on the Near East Side. It looks pretty old and doesn’t seem to be in use. What’s its story?
Holy Rosary, at 1651 E. Main St., was a Catholic church that was sold in the 1980s to Rock of Faith Baptist Church. It’s one of several buildings on the site. The oldest is a small brick house dating from 1845; it was used as the church’s rectory. The church itself was completed in 1915; behind it, along Mound Street, is the former convent, built in the 1950s. West of it is the former high school dating from 1928. There also was an elementary school near Seymour and Mound, but it was demolished some time ago.

You are right that the church is not being used. Just behind it, having moved out of the church some time ago, Rock of Faith holds services in a small one-story building. The historic church is, of course, the centerpiece of the complex. With a design inspired by centuries of Italian church architecture, the building towers over its neighborhood. The tall square campanile (bell tower) is a true landmark, and both it and the church were built of brick laid in a distinctive diamond pattern known as a “diaper.” Difficult and expensive to create, this type of brickwork was rare, and there are stories that the parish priest at the time, Father Howard, made frequent inspections using opera glasses to be sure it was done properly. Inside, the church has a coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling with some water damage, but overall the building is in fair shape. Rumors of development plans have circulated, but for now Holy Rosary is on the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s “most endangered” list.

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In Downtown Columbus, East Town Street extends across the freeway and then turns at an angle and becomes Bryden Road. How come it tilts off the Downtown grid, and who or what was Bryden?
Actually, it’s Downtown Columbus that’s off the Rectangular Survey System grid that divvied up much of Ohio. Even though it was in use when the city’s original streets were laid out, for reasons unknown, Columbus was turned some 12 and a quarter degrees west of the grid. As the city grew outside its original plat, many streets turned a bit to line up with the established grid. Town Street originally ended at a line that would become Parsons Avenue by the 1850s, and by around 1870, Town had been built straight eastward near Champion Avenue.

Not only did it run straight east-west from Parsons, the extension of Town Street was set some 50 feet south of the original road’s centerline because by that time George M. Parsons, a noted coin collector and newspaper publisher, had built a large home opposite the original east end. As for James Bryden, the namesake for the new road, he was a Columbus City Council member and Franklin County commissioner. By the 1840s, he owned almost a quarter of a square mile of what was then rural land where Town Street would extend eastward. A small memorial plaque, partially hidden by bushes, is at the northwest corner of Town and Parsons and will tell you more about Mr. Bryden and the character of his namesake street.

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