German Village is a historic neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, just south of the city's downtown. It was settled in the early-to-mid-19th century by a large number of German immigrants, who at one time comprised as much as a third of the city's entire population. It became a city historic district in 1960 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, becoming the list's largest privately funded preservation district, and in 2007, was made a Preserve America Community by the federal government. In 1980, its boundaries increased, and today it is one of the world's premier historic restorations.
In 1796, Congress appropriated the Refugee Lands for Canadian province individuals who had supported the Colonial cause in the American Revolution. By 1802, an American Revolution veteran named John McGowan claimed 328 acres (1.33 km2), most of what would become the German Village. As German immigrants arrived, McGowan sold tracts of land to them. By 1814, a settlement had grown up, originally called "Das Alte Südende" (the Old South End), and German immigrants contributed to building the first statehouse.
Stewart Elementary School, built in 1874
By 1830, massive German immigration to the city had occurred. The most influential German newspaper in 1843 was Der Westbote. Many would serve in the American Civil War, thus gaining the universal respect of the local citizens. By 1865, one-third of Columbus's population was German and the community was flourishing. They built up the local neighborhood, including many businesses, such as Hessenauer Jewelers and Lazarus Department Stores, schools, and churches, such as the Ohio-historic St. Mary's Catholic Church, built in 1865 and adorned with a 197-foot (60 m) steeple in 1893. German-American George J. Karb became mayor of the city, twice, at the end of the 19th century and again in the early 20th century.
During the early 20th century, the south end saw newcomers from eastern Europe aside from German immigrants, resulting in brother neighborhoods such as the Hungarian Village.
The local schools the German immigrants constructed and managed were so superior that English-speaking residents of Columbus chose to attend them, such as one that once stood at Fulton Street east of S. Fourth Street.
World War I
The area was in serious decline throughout the first half of the 20th century, partly due to anti-German sentiment during World War I. During that time, the teaching of German in public schools was banned and German textbooks were burned. German street names were changed, such as Germania Street becoming the present-day Stewart Avenue, and Schiller Park was temporarily renamed Washington Park. The anti-German sentiment fueled by the media was so bad that in 1918, German books were burned on Broad Street and at the foot of the Schiller statue. German canine breeds were taken from their owners and slaughtered, including German Shepherds and Dachshunds. Despite the hatred, the Columbus German American community would produce one of America's finest heroes from the war, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, for whom Rickenbacker International Airport in southern Columbus is named.
Further decline occurred later due to the closing of the local breweries during Prohibition. After the war, the south end was zoned for manufacturing, leading to the erosion of the area's residential feel. In World War II, the streetcar tracks and wrought-iron fences were confiscated for the war effort. By the 1950s, the area had become a slum and the city decided to demolish one-third of the neighborhood.
With the Village nearing complete destruction, Frank Fetch defied the common wisdom and purchased a house on S. Wall Street, determined to rebuild the neighborhood. Fetch would create the German Village Society. In June 1960, the society hosted the first Haus und Garten Tour, which attracted visitors and the local media to eight restored homes and two gardens. Today, the tour is one of the city's most popular events. Frank Fetch Park was named after him.
Concerned citizens managed to save its historic architecture from demolition in the 1960s by lobbying for a local commission, the German Village Commission, to have power over external changes made to buildings and by getting the area listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. As of 2009, the German Village Society has over 1,000 preservationists who maintain the historic quality of the buildings and neighborhood, and German Village is considered one of the most desirable areas to live in the city. More than 1,600 buildings have been restored since 1960 and it is credited as one of the world's premiere restoration districts. By the 1980s, the restoration was nearly complete. Today, it is the largest privately funded historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area is mostly a residential neighborhood of sturdy, red-brick homes with wrought iron fences along tree-lined, brick-paved streets.
The German Village Guest House has been recognized as one of the best in the Midwest by the New York Post, The Plain Dealer, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and positively reviewed by The Washington Post and The Tennessean. It was rated as the "Best Columbus Hotel 2010" by City Search.
In 2007, German Village was recognized by the White House as a Preserve America Community.
German tradition has long reigned in the community in the form of an annual Oktoberfest festival. It originally took place in Schiller Park and has been held at various locations within the German Village neighborhood. Due to new development in the area, it now takes place at the Ohio State Fairgrounds / Ohio Expo Center. The festival was voted to be canceled in 2009, but the Schmidt (owners and operators of Schmidt's Sausage Haus) and Cox families stepped in to keep it running. A smaller Oktoberfest still goes on in the German Village itself, at the Germania Gesang und Sport Verein (Singing and Sports Club) at 543 South Front Street in the old Schlee Brewmaster's House and outdoor garden.
Although German Village is an eclectic community, the area is known as a residential gay village. While there are no gay establishments within German Village, the neighboring Brewery District and Merion Village have several.
Much of the area in present-day south downtown along I-70 was at one point considered part of German Village, including the Market Exchange District, which has experienced a revival alongside German Village.
German Village is bound by Pearl Street on the west; East Livingston Avenue on the north; Lathrop Street, Brust Street, Grant Avenue, Jaeger Street, and Blackberry Alley on the east; and Nursery Lane on the south. 
Parks and landmarks
Schiller Park, named after Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), was once a community meeting ground for German immigrants. It is now the site of recreational facilities, gardens, and an amphitheater that hosts free live performances of Shakespearean plays during the summer months courtesy of Actors' Theatre of Columbus. It is bounded by Jaeger Street and City Park, Reinhard, and Deshler Avenues. It has been the area's center for festivals and neighborhood activities since the 1800s.
The 23-acre park's main entrance, along City Park Avenue, greets visitors with the Huntington Gardens, sponsored by Huntington National Bank and maintained by volunteers, and the Schiller statue. The statue was presented to the park by local residents in 1891. It is a second casting of the statue in Munich, Germany, designed and executed by Max von Widnmann and unveiled on May 9, 1863. The Columbus statue was transported free of charge across the Atlantic. The park is also home to Umbrella Girl, dedicated to the citizens of German Village in October 1996 to replace the missing original sculpture.
The neighborhood's Stewart Alternative Elementary School, was built in 1874. It is one of the oldest remaining school buildings in Columbus, built at the same time as the First and Second Avenue Schools, also still extant.