My older son and I were in Columbus, Ohio this past summer, and we decided to walk down to the German Village area, on the southern edge of the city.
Originally settled by Geman immigrants in the early 1800s, Columbus’ German Village still has a distinct character today.
It sits adjacent to the Brewery District the Gemans set up at the same time, and which now sports a lively art, pub and restaurant scene. Sadly, we didn’t have time to explore this area, but we will on or next trip.
But our walk through the cobblestoned streets of German Village, with its cute brick buildings and shops and restaurants – sadly, many closed due to COVID on our visit – was enjoyable.
In 1802, an American Revolutionary War veteran bought up this area of land, and began selling them in tracts to Germans who arrived in this area. By 1814, a sizable number of German immigrants had settled here, and called the neighborhood “Das Alte Südende” (the Old South End).
These immigrants were instrumental in building the old statehouse.
By 1830, this German community had grown to a sizable number as immigration increased. The community supported several German-language newspapers and built the neighboring breweries. Many in this community served in the Union Army in the Civil War, and by 1865, this German population made up fully one-third of the Columbus population.
Things changed around World War I, when anti-German sentiment grew. Many German street names were changed and the practice of teaching German, alongside English, in the local schools came to an end. The community began to decrease during this period, and would decrease further with the start of Prohibition and the subsequent shut-downs of the nearby breweries.
By the 1950s, the area had fallen into rapid decline. Considered a slum area, there were calls for its destruction. Luckily, a group of active preservationists created the German Village Society and saved the historic neighborhood by having it placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
We went to one of the famous local restaurants – Schmidt’s – while we were exploring the area. Like me, my son has spent a lot of time in Germany and enjoys German food, so this was a good find for us to enjoy German sausage, Sauerkraut, Spaetzle, and (from my side) beer.
We’ll definitely be back to this area when it’s more “open” and lively than it was during this Corona virus lockdown period.
When you’re in Columbus, definitely worth the detour to the southern end of town to enjoy a walk through German Village and its pretty brick homes, pubs and restaurants.