Columbus Neighborhoods: University District

University Hall and The Oval, circa 1910(Photo: Courtesy of Ohio State University Archives)

Intersections and boundaries are fascinating places, whether it’s East meets West or turf meets surf. In Columbus, the University District is where town meets
gown. Sometimes they’ve stood shoulder to shoulder. At other times, they’ve been toe-to-toe.

Columbus Neighborhoods: University District tells the story of a collection of fiercely independent and unique neighborhoods that border the nation’s largest university. The program is the fourth hour-long documentary in WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods project, which also includes a dedicated website ( and special radio reporting that culminates with the city’s bicentennial in 2012.

Before Ohio State was established in 1870, the area was a small town with a gristmill between Worthington and Columbus. The Beers Cabin, built sometime between 1803 and 1804 by David Beers, near High Street and Dodridge Avenue, is the oldest inhabited house in Columbus. Though relocated, the cabin is still in the University District.

The documentary also shows how the area was transformed when land belonging to stagecoach magnate William Neil was selected for the Ohio State University. The University’s impact on the area was immense. Restaurants and rooming houses sprang up to cater to the students. Some neighborhoods were overwhelmed as the school’s enrollment grew. The tension between quiet neighborhoods and roiling campus grew when Ohio State’s enrollment nearly doubled in one year after WWII.

Student protests in the 60s and the closing of factories in Weinland Park and other neighborhoods also affected the community. The documentary also shows how the murder of an Ohio State student galvanized support for measures that revitalized declining areas and promoted development of the South Gateway on High Street.

The program also shows there was always much more to the University District than Ohio State. To keep streetcars busy between rush hours in the early 1900s, The Indianola and Olentangy amusement parks, with roller coasters and shoot-the-chutes, were built. The parks have long since disappeared. But as Columbus Neighborhoods: University District shows, the roller-coaster ride continues for independent and active people who love living near a thriving, boisterous, and beautiful campus.

(Written by Brent Davis, WOSU Senior Content Director)

Columbus Neighborhoods: University District
10/6/2011 8:00 pm WOSU TV
10/7/2011 3:00 am WOSU TV
10/7/2011 10:00 pm WOSU TV
10/8/2011 4:00 am WOSU TV
10/9/2011 6:00 pm WOSU TV

Columbus Neighborhoods: University District is produced by WOSU’s Mary Rathke and is endorsed by the 200 Columbus Bicentennial Commission. The documentary features an all-local
music soundtrack.