German Village, a neighborhood just south of the core of downtown Columbus, Ohio, is one of the most historic locales in the city. German immigrants began settling in Columbus in 1812, and by 1890 there were about 7,000 German-Americans in south Columbus. The German Village neighborhood’s narrow, brick streets, brick Italianate and Queen Anne homes, meticulous gardens, and ever-present sense of its own history remind current day residents and visitors of the past. Approximately 3,000 individuals reside in the 1,800 structures of German Village today.
The German Village Society was established in 1960 in response to urban renewal campaigns of the 1950s that resulted in demolition of one-third of the old German neighborhood. The challenge of preserving the architectural heritage of German Village is the principal concern of the German Village Society. The Society encourages the discovery and documentation of historically significant features of individual properties, chronicles milestone events of the neighborhood, and promotes education on the community’s attributes. A German Village Commission, appointed by the mayor of Columbus, is the legal entity which evaluates all proposed construction, reconstruction, or alteration of the exterior of a Village structure and determines whether the changes are appropriate to the historic integrity of the Village.
The first annual Haus und Garten Tour in June 1960 attracted media attention and lured hundreds of visitors to the neighborhood to see eight restored homes and two gardens. It was a modest beginning for what has become one of Columbus’ most popular annual events, attracting more than 5,000 people. German Village Oktoberfest is known as “the best party in town.” This spirited, authentic German festival raises funds to support the programs of the German Village Society.
A focal point of the community is Schiller Park, known for festivals and neighborhood activities since the early 1800s. Originally known as Stewart’s Grove, the area later was purchased by the city of Columbus and became known as City Park. A fountain was built and a lake excavated, and in 1891 the Villagers presented the park with a bronze statue of German poet Friedrich von Schiller, which had been cast in Germany. City Park then became known as Schiller Park. As the Village grew, the park became the location for Oktoberfest, family reunions, singing festivals, the Ohio State Fair, a zoo, and holiday celebrations. Ground was broken June 1993 for Huntington Gardens, the promenade on the west side of the statue.
The Huntington Garden Promenade is a model of partnership between public and private enterprises in the spirit of community reinvestment. Today the park is alive with garden tours, festivals, playgrounds, the work of Actors’ Theatre, which performs Shakespeare in the Park shows throughout the summer, and a newly renovated recreation center.
Today, no trip to German Village is complete without a stop at Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus (open since 1886) to sample the local favorites: cream puffs and the “Bahama Mama” sausage sandwich. People of all ages, backgrounds, incomes, and lifestyles call German Village home. Though it is no longer any more German than any other part of Columbus, German Village is much like its 19th century counterpart—a thriving community filled with hard-working, neighborly people, proud of the past and planning to preserve it for generations to come.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2007.