At one time the city stopped at Parson’s Farm near what we today call Parsons Avenue. The family had become a dynasty in Columbus. Doc Parsons was one of the city’s first physicians. His son George was a remarkably successful businessman. George’s daughter marries into European Royalty and the wedding is one of the biggest in Columbus’ history.
The Parson’s Mansion, pictured below, which was located at the corner of Parsons Avenue and Bryden Road was the first home of the Columbus School for Girls. The house was demolished in 1954.
From the 1890s to the 1920s, Olde Towne East was the place to live in Columbus for the city’s wealthiest members. Captains of business and industry built their dream houses along Broad Street. Meanwhile, Main Street became the commercial corridor of the city with theaters, restaurants, stores, and professional businesses that served the residential neighborhood.
Architects were highly sought after when designing houses. Not only did they design the houses, but many of them lived in the neighborhood.
Architects such as Joseph Yost of “Yost and Packard” who left a legacy of architecture in the schools, buildings and homes all over Columbus including Orton Hall at Ohio State University and the Ohio State Armory which is pictured below. George Bellows, Sr. who designed many landmark buildings, including what is now the AME Zion Church.
In their ranks was Florence Kenyon Hayden Rector, a female architect ahead of her time. She was the first licensed architect in Ohio and at the age of 25-years-old was commissioned to design a women’s dominatory at Ohio State, which is now known as Oxley Hall.
George Bellows was a celebrated as an important American painter in the turn of the last century. His bold depictions of ordinary life made him a leader in the realism movement and he became an acclaimed artist of his generation. Bellows work was provocative and extraordinarily popular. He later used his influence to encourage the development of the fledgling Columbus Museum of Art.
Alice Schille was one of the watercolorists of the her day and created paintings all over the country. She also painted portraits of most of the prominent families in Central Ohio between 1905-40
A new class of venture capitalists living on the east side were not only making names for themselves in Columbus, but all over the country and the world. Pictured below from left to right: Joe Carr, founded the modern day NFL, and lived on Bryden Road. Mary Campbell, the only two-time Miss America, and Dr. Lewis M. Early pioneered the development of x-ray technology for medical use.
The automobile also facilitated the growth of suburbs, as people could commute to work beyond the few miles of streetcar lines. In Columbus, many wealthier residents of Olde Towne East moved to the new suburbs. In turn, the Olde Towne East neighborhood became more diverse as many middle class African Americans purchased their first homes in the neighborhood.
The construction of the highway system created two major boundaries and nearly destroyed the community. The highways made it easy for Olde Towne East residents to move further east into Columbus’ new suburbs.
In the age of the suburb, no one wanted a mansion with ten foot ceilings. Some were abandoned. Some were turned into nursing homes, churches or apartments. Home owners were disappearing.
With the population shift, businesses that once served the community also suffered and move away as well creating empty buildings.
The barons and businesses impresarios of Columbus past had built Olde Towne East, but it was the neighborhood association formed in the 1970s that fought to preserve it. As parts of the neighborhood were listed on the National Historic Register, financial incentive programs became available and attracted a new wave of residents.
With revitalization a new challenge confronted the neighborhood. In the 1980s, the community suffered through a drug epidemic which lead to various crimes and left many older people in the neighborhood were afraid to come out on their porches.
Many residents didn’t trust the police. To fight the crime, residents formed a neighborhood watch to put the police on notice. After a few years, collaboration with the police and an expansion of the block watch from one street to an area, lead to a reduction in crime and allowed residents to feel safe enough to go back outside.