Narcissism: Thy name is Hayden

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

The nameHaydenkeeps popping up in Central Ohio. Is there any connection? It's no secret that successful people often get to put their names on things. Peter Hayden was no exception. In fact, he was quite fond of it.

Born in central New York state in 1806, Hayden ended up in Columbus after running manufacturing enterprises in New York and South Carolina. Here he was known for his iron works along the original east bank of the Scioto River at State Street. On Capitol Square he built the Hayden Building, home of his financial institution later known as the Hayden-Clinton Bank. It's the fine stone-faced property at 20 E. Broad St. Next door, at 16 E. Broad, he built the New Hayden Building around 1906. It was an office building-the NFL once housed its offices there on the 11th floor (see CQ, for April 2014); look for the "H" medallions on the facade. And far up the Scioto, on the line between Norwich and Washington townships, is Hayden Run (and Hayden Falls), so named because the family once owned land in that area.

But Mr. Hayden may be best known for his brick-and-tile manufacturing operation in the company-owned town in Hocking County that he modestly named Haydenville. The business has been gone for half a century or more, but many of the brick houses remain, some ornamented with sewer tiles, and there's a church built of every kind of brick and paver you can think of. The local cemetery even has some clay headstones. Take a drive down U.S. 33 to see this unique place, including the round house made of silo tiles. It's quite a monument to an unusual fellow.

Someone told me the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American fliers who fought in World War II, were once stationed in Columbus. Is that true? It sure is. The Airmen's wartime exploits have been documented and celebrated, but you don't hear much about what happened after the war.

The Army Air Corps (it did not become a separate service until 1947) faced a dilemma: There were 1,000 or so pilots, flight crewman, ground crewmen and officers who had so brilliantly validated the "Tuskegee Experiment," but the American military was still segregated. Sending all the Airmen to bases around the country would have meant building separate Jim Crow facilities at each one.

Instead, the Air Corps decided to find a single base where all the Airmen could be stationed. Seeking a northern city with good race relations and decent housing, the generals chose two finalists: Hartford, Connecticut, and Columbus. And we won. Lockbourne Army Air Base (today Rickenbacker International Airport) was large and well-established, so the entire Tuskegee group moved there. There was some grumbling in local newspapers about "troublemakers" coming to town, but, under their wartime commander, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the Tuskegee Airmen served with honor at Lockbourne, maintaining excellent relations with the large white civilian workforce on the base. One historian has stated that it was the success of the Airmen at Columbus that gave the Air Force the impetus to be the first to implement President Truman's executive order integrating all the armed services. By 1949 the Airmen had been assigned to other bases and Lockbourne was temporarily de-activated. Several of the original Tuskegee Airmen lived in Columbus until passing away in recent years.

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

Sources: CQ research paper on Tuskegee Airmen in Columbus; Architecture: Columbus; Little Cities of Black Diamonds;