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My semester researching Poindexter Village: or getting to know Columbus

 Written by    December 12, 2014

Wednesday evening I finished one of my first finals, but it definitely was not the kind of test you would expect.

I took a course this semester that involved researching some important community history.

Recently a public housing neighborhood on the East Side of Columbus was mostly torn down, and since then a discussion has opened up about how to preserve this important part of community history.  Enter our group of history students who were tasked with finding objects and pictures that might help tell and preserve that story.

This map highlights the community we researched.

I had the greatest time doing research as an actual field historian this semester, and collaborating with a small group of students (only five of us in the class) was also really fun. Even our professor didn’t know what we would find- we had to create a story together by digging through archives, interviewing community members, and finding old photographs.

As our final, we got to present some of our research to community members. But that’s not the end of the story for me. I’m now writing my thesis next semester on the history of this entire East Side community. It was so inspiring to me, that I had to keep learning more.

If you’re looking to go to school in Columbus (or if you’re already here) it’s great to know a little bit of community history! So here’s a quick summary of what we learned about Poindexter Village!

  1. There was a strong African American community on the Near East Side long before Poindexter Village was built. Reverend Poindexter (the man for whom the village was named) was a prominent leader during the 19th century. The Great Migration boosted the population in this community and caused some changes, but the neighborhood reacted by forming great social organizations, booming businesses and culture, and staying strong as a community.
    Local artist Aminah Robinson shows what the community was like in these earlier days.

    Local artist Aminah Robinson shows what the community was like in these earlier days.


  2. Poindexter Village is important nationally because it is an example of something we often forget: New Deal public housing. As the country was struggling to come out of the Great Depression in the 1930s, a lot of public housing was built to be transitional with a strong community life. Poindexter was filled with small, low-rise buildings built around a community center and other important neighborhood structures. Public housing at this time did not have the same negative stigma it does today. FDR even visited when it was opened!
    FDR comes to Columbus!

    FDR comes to Columbus!


  3. People loved living in Poindexter Village. It was a great place to be. It was a community with friendly neighbors, children to play with, and businesses nearby.  And as part of the Near East Side neighborhood, it was close to many local music clubs! One of the artist playing these local clubs was Hank Marr. Check him out!

    An early Poindexter Village as shown by Aminah Robinson.


  4. In the 1970s, like many city neighborhoods, Poindexter Village saw a decline instigated by outside forces. Bad maintenance services coming from bad federal funding caused rundown buildings which in turn encouraged crime.  As the highway was built in the neighborhood, people were relocated, and the highway literally segregated the neighborhood from downtown.
    However, local artist Jeff Abraxas was able to add joy to the areas most affected by the highway by filling the space with his beautiful murals.

    However, local artist Jeff Abraxas was able to add joy to the areas most affected by the highway by filling the space with his beautiful murals.


  5. In the late twentieth century public housing in the United States was poorly funded, and while Poindexter held on, it was recently torn down. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still loved.  Residents of the community look at Poindexter Village fondly and are deeply upset to see this important part of their community go. This community is still strong and resilient over a hundred years after its formation.
    The community rallies to save Poindexter Village.

    The community rallies to save Poindexter Village.


This class really changed my outlook on Columbus.  Before, the Near East Side was a neighborhood I would have just driven past, with street names and buildings that meant nothing.  However after reading so much about the neighborhood I feel passionate about its past, and about Columbus as a city.  I now navigate Columbus easily and can tell friends what buildings we are passing when we drive through.  I feel a greater sense of belonging as part of the Columbus community, and not only the Ohio State community.  Plus I have met some great people still living in and campaigning for the Near East Side, and I’m excited to meet more! Hearing their stories is what makes history fun.

So like I said, if you’re coming to Ohio State, or here already, take a minute to learn something about Columbus’s past.  Find a part of town that interests you.  You will find the way you interact with the city will change.  Most of us may only be here for four years, but while we remain within the 614 we ought to get to know our community!


If you want to know more about Poindexter Village and the East Side, there are people out there who know much more than I do after only a semester of research. Check out some of these great groups!





Also check out the James Preston Poindexter Foundation on Facebook!



Images in order of appearance:







Classes, Research

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