The Story of Us: Our European Roots

Kristen Schmidt

We can guess some of Columbus' immigration history by the names of our neighborhoods. German and Italian villages come to mind. But we've also got Hungarian and Irish roots, too. Here's a look at who came to Columbus beginning in the mid-19th century.

By 1860, a majority of Columbus' 18,000 residents were German and Irish, says Columbus Landmarks Foundation executive director Ed Lentz. German immigrants settled in what is still known as German Village. Though Prohibition effectively killed the brewing industry German immigrants launched here, Columbus' German heritage remains highly visible in institutions like Schmidt's (founded in 1886), the Columbus Maennerchor (1848) and Germania (1866).

Irish immigrants moved to Columbus in droves, between 1830 and 1860, Lentz says. They initially settled north of the city and also lived in Franklinton and Flytown, roughly the present-day Arena District and part of Victorian Village (the street known today as Nationwide Boulevard was at one time called "Irish Broadway"). Columbus is still home to several Irish heritage organizations, including the Shamrock Club (formed 1936) and The Daughters of Erin.

Columbus didn't have as much heavy industry as nearby cities Cleveland and Chicago, so comparatively fewer eastern and southern European immigrants moved here in the early 20th century, Lentz says. Those who did-hundreds of people, rather than thousands-settled on the city's south side to be closer to the steel mills and glass factory that constituted Columbus' heavy industry. Hungarian Village is still home to the Hungarian Reformed Church, founded more than 100 years ago.

Italian immigrants came to Columbus between 1900 and 1920, settling in Flytown, Grandview Heights, San Margherita, Franklinton and present-day as Italian Village. They founded St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in 1896, worked in the city's manufacturing industry and opened businesses of their own, including the First & Last Chance Saloon. St. John is the site of the Columbus Italian Festival, held each October.