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Eastgate Celebrates Centennial With Walking Tour

The home of David Nelson, Sr., the first settler in what is know Eastgate on Nelson Road.

The home of David Nelson, Sr., the first settler in what is now Eastgate on Nelson Road.

Who would guess there’s so much local history tucked away in a quiet little corner of Columbus called Eastgate? In helping to plan a 100th Anniversary walking tour for this neighborhood full of friends and family, I found that Eastgate goes way back in Columbus history.

The area is bounded by Broad Street, Maryland Avenue, Nelson Road and railroad tracks. Nelson Park is the biggest nearby landmark. But in the early 1800s, it was all part of the Refugee Tract, a four-mile-wide strip from Fifth Avenue to Refugee Road and from the Scioto River to Zanesville.

Congress gave free parcels here to refugees from Canada and Nova Scotia who had helped the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

Read: Curious Cbus: How Did Refugee Road Get Its Name?

Some refugees sold the land instead of keeping it. One of the earliest buyers was Lt. David Nelson, Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania who acquired 600 acres along Alum Creek.

Nelson was among the first to settle this part of Columbus, starting a farm with his wife and seven children. They built a log cabin near what’s now the southeast corner of Clifton Avenue and Nelson Road.

A placard there marks the Nelson lumber and grist mill. In 1819, Nelson built a large brick home that still stands on Nelson Road. It’s all on the August 19 walking tour, along with some of Eastgate’s other beautiful colonial homes.

The Nelson lumber and grist mill that was build in Eastgate in the early 1800s.

The Nelson lumber and grist mill that was build in Eastgate in the early 1800s.

The tour also celebrates the people who lived here, including George and Virginia Schmidt, who co-owned Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in German Village, and E. H. Sells of the Sells Brothers Circus family. Some of my personal heroes also lived here, including six Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American aviators in the U.S armed forces; and James “Eddie” Saunders, the first African American broadcaster in Central Ohio, who was a personal friend and mentor.

House on Millbrook Way in Columbus' Eastgate neighborhood.

House on Millbrook Way in Columbus’ Eastgate neighborhood.

Eastgate is even part of Buckeye history. The East High football field here is named for Charles “Chic” Harley, the extraordinary East High and OSU football star who drew so many thousands of fans from 1916 to 1919, Ohio State had to build a bigger stadium. To many, the Horseshoe is the house that Harley built.

– Charlene Brown

Eastgate Centennial Events

Thursday August 17, 6:30 p.m.
Film Screening: “The Legacy of Eastgate”
Columbus Metropolitan Main Library, 96 S. Grant Avenue
Cost: Free

Friday August 18
Centennial Volunteers Social Hour, 7:30 p.m.
Old Bag of Nails Pub, 18 N. Nelson Road

Saturday August 19
Walking Tour, 10 a.m.
Begins at Clifton Avenue and Nelson Road
Contact Columbus Landmarks Foundation
Cost: $15

Street Festival, noon- 4 p.m.
Featuring food and entertainment at Millbrook Way at Nelson Road
Cost: Free

More information is available at the Eastgate Garden Civic Association website.