History of Victorian Village and its Architectural Styles
Prior to 1870, the Victorian Village Area was several large farms owned by the Neil, Hubbard, and Starr families. Development of the district was heavily influenced by the Neil family. In 1827, William Neil purchased a three hundred acre farm north of Columbus that ultimately became the site of the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College (now The Ohio State University). By 1853, the Neils had purchased almost all the land west of High Street to the Olentangy River, and between the city and the original farm. At that point, William and Hannah Neil divided portions of their property among their children.
Dr. Lincoln Goodale, who came to Ohio in 1788, donated a forty-acre tract of land to the city for use as a public park in 1851. It was one of the first tracts of land in the United States to be set aside for a public park. Goodale Park was landscaped and developed in the 1870s. The park was used as Camp Jackson during the Civil War. There were two lakes in the park. One was constructed in 1874 and another added in 1891. The original lake is still there.
In 1879, a street railway connecting the downtown and the University was completed along Neil Avenue. This was two years before one was completed along High Street. Neil Avenue became a major north-south connection. The increased mobility resulting from the rail line and the establishment of the University opened the way for further growth. By 1875, the area between High Street and Neil Avenue was a thriving residential area. The area west of Neil and south of Fifth was platted between 1888 and 1902. It was almost entirely developed prior to 1920.
Over a century later and still in tact in Victorian Village are some of the finest examples of domestic architecture of the Victorian Era. Examples of styles represented include Italianate Queen Anne, Second Empire, Carpenter-Stick and Four Square. Many homes incorporated details borrowed from various other styles and consequently features typical of Tudor, Shingle Style, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, and Richardsonian Romanesque are also included.
The larger, more impressive homes are prominent around Goodale Park and along Neil Avenue. The majority of these homes are 2.5-3 stories built of brick. Steeply pitched gable roofs, dormers, turrets, ornamental cresting, corbelled chimneys, stained glass, leaded glass, varying window shapes, porches, and carriage houses appear commonly. The side streets were primarily simpler 2 story homes, some cottages and multiple family dwellings of brick construction. Typical features among these include hipped roofs, dormers, decorative brackets, carved stone lintels, frieze windows, denticular cornices, and porches.
This district grew up as a community of diverse groups. Lifestyles, occupations, incomes, and educational levels were varied. Doctors, lawyers, craftsmen, and merchants built their homes there. This social mixture is reflected in the rich variety of architecture.
The physical decline of Columbus' Near Northside began in the late 1920s and can be attributed to several factors. The automobile expanded the limits of the city and created new suburbs. Successful businesses moved from High Street to suburban locations. The increased new construction and urban sprawl, which occurred after World War II, accelerated the departure of the more affluent residents to the suburbs and contributed to the decline of the Near Northside where Victorian Village is located.
Revitalization of the area was sparked in the 1960's and 1970's. The City of Columbus officially recognized "Victorian Village" and declared it an historic district. Low interest loans for renovation became available through "urban renewal". The Victorian Village Architectural Review Commission was established in 1974 for the protection and preservation of many architectural treasures. Because of the Commission, the district appears today much as it did during its peak years and survives as an excellent example of a nineteenth century neighborhood. Thanks to the hard work of many historical preservation pioneers, the current Victorian Village is again an attractive, livable, and affordable urban area. Its history and architecture make it unique, richly diversified and still able to accommodate a wide variety of income levels and social backgrounds. Visit Victorian Village and see why its residents think it is a wonderful place to live.
Courtesy of the Victorian Village Society