On the east side of Columbus, there’s an ordinary-looking neighborhood with an extraordinary story to tell. To some the story is highly personal, though there are aspects of it that relate to us all.
Neighbors who lived in the Hanford Village George Washington Carver Addition in the 1950s and early 1960s still feel a strong connection to a place they remember as a self-contained safe haven. The community had its own church, park and civic centers. Families supported each other; children played outside until dark and knew that all parents were their parents. It sounds like any other idyllic small town, but this place has a bigger story to tell.
The Carver Addition was built after World War II to house African American service members returning to civilian life. Because so few new houses had been built during the Great Depression and the war that followed it, America was experiencing a desperate housing shortage. Returning veterans scrambled to find affordable places to live. Federal programs like the G.I. Bill and Federal Housing Administration guaranteed loans helped, but minorities — even decorated war veterans — had limited access to benefits and found it almost impossible to find decent homes.
The Carver Addition was built on the site of a dump and an orchard, on land chosen because of its proximity to Hanford Village, an established African American community. Despite local objection, 146 Federal Housing Administration-approved homes were built. Although the look of the neighborhood is unremarkable, its architecture and street pattern clearly reflect specific design principles established by the Federal Housing Administration that became a guiding policy for new-house construction. These principles had a profound impact on our national landscape after World War II as thousands of modest Cape-Cod-type houses sprouted in cities and towns across America.
The Federal Housing Administration based its home designs on two principles: maximum efficiency and resale value. Houses like those in the Carver Addition were built to be attractive but not trendy and to hold their value over time. The rectangular footprint of the homes provided maximum living space in a small package. Wall and ceiling dimensions were standardized to streamline construction. The interior layout was practical. Each house had a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and an eat-in kitchen. The unfinished second level could be used for additional bedroom space if needed.
To slow and reduce traffic in the neighborhood, the development had limited access points, and Court and Clay streets were curved — a design feature also promoted by the Federal Housing Administration.
Some of the original homeowners were members of the legendary 99th Fighter Squadron, known as the Red Tails. Despite the fact that they had proved themselves in battle during World War II, the shadow of segregation still restricted where they could live. The Carver Addition became a close-knit community — a welcoming home to its residents, who often felt unwelcome in other parts of the city.
The Carver Addition was so successful that the Federal Housing Administration promoted it to challenge negative racial stereotypes, noting that homes were well-kept, mortgages were paid on time and crime was almost non-existent. They began to endorse minority housing as a stabilizing factor that would improve home values in nearby neighborhoods. Ultimately, the Carver Addition’s success led to greater access for African Americans to Federal Housing Administration financing, which meant lower interest rates and better terms than other mortgages.
The story doesn’t end there. In the 1960s, construction of Interstate 70 rumbled through miles of mostly African American neighborhoods, then curved through Hanford Village, splitting the Carver Addition in half. More than 60 houses built in the 1940s in the Carver Addition were demolished or moved in the 1960s to make way for the highway. The remaining houses were cut off from downtown Columbus, but more importantly, residents were separated from their churches, parks and schools by the highway.
Time passed, children grew up and moved away and the Carver Addition assumed its place in Columbus as another aging housing development. But those who remembered its story weren’t content to let it fade away. Its story connects all of us to a shared past of World War II heroes; a segregated America; social and political policy; and strong community spirit.
Working with the Ohio History Connection, students from Columbus’s Centennial High School obtained an Ohio Historical Marker for Hanford Village in 2009.
In 2010 and 2011, under sponsorship of the Ohio Historical Society and Columbus Landmarks Foundation, Americorps volunteer Jennifer Gerrity documented houses and other buildings in the Carver Addition for the Ohio Historic Inventory.
Subsequently, neighbors worked with Columbus Landmarks Foundation and the City of Columbus to obtain a Certified Local Government grant from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio History Connection, using it to nominate the Carver Addition to the National Register of Historic Places.
A National Register nomination documenting the neighborhood’s history and significance was prepared by historic preservation consultants Rory Krupp and Roy Hampton of Owen & Eastlake Ltd. Last September, the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board reviewed the proposed nomination and voted to recommend that the Carver Addition be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register honors places of local, statewide or national significance. In recognition of its extraordinary story, in December 2013 the Hanford Village George Washington Carver Addition Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places because of its national significance.