In 1905, Mrs. Dollie Whittaker established the Whittaker Funeral Home, which later became known as “Mrs. D.A. Whittaker & Sons”. Located at the corner of East Long Street and Hamilton Avenue, the funeral home became an important business and social institution in the community. It was operated for three generations by the Whittaker family until 1969, when it was purchased by the Diehl family, who had owned and operated a funeral home in Youngstown, Ohio.
Richard J. Diehl, who in 1977 built the currently existing facility on the site of the original Whittaker establishment; it was at this time that the firm’s name was changed to “Diehl-Whittaker”.
Whittaker Funeral Home - Presented by Christain Stevens Mifflin High School - 2022
Shiloh Baptist Church located in Bronzeville, Columbus, Ohio. It is one of the oldest black churches in the city. It has been active since the 1860s, and its 1920s building has been named a historic site.
Built of brick on a concrete foundation, the Gothic Revival church features limestone details and is covered with an asphalt roof. A major part of the church is on the second story, sitting above a basement with windows at ground level; the main part of the building is entered through large doors atop a flight of exterior stairs. Squat rectangular towers with pyramidal roofs sit on the front corners of the building, with simple rectangular windows above small doorways. The plan partially reflects traditional ecclesiastical architecture, with a gabled roof being interrupted by cross gables on the sides. Many of the windows, as well as the doorways, are wide ogive arches.
Shiloh Baptist Church was formed by a group of former members of the city's Second Baptist Church. Seeing the city's black population increasing rapidly, especially on the near east side, Second Baptist leaders asked for volunteers to leave and form a new church; these volunteers formed the entire charter membership of the new Shiloh church. From their first meeting in 1869 until 1871, they worshipped in a rented property at Gay and Fourth Streets in downtown Columbus, after which they moved a few blocks eastward to Cleveland Avenue and Long Street. The congregation again moved in 1923 upon the completion of the present building on Mount Vernon Avenue, significantly farther east than the previous houses of worship.
Minister, James Burks, was responsible for the design, with additional work being performed by the A.O. Day Construction Company. The congregation came close to losing the building during the Great Depression, due to its inability to pay the mortgage, but was delivered by an unexpected act of mercy: upon obtaining title through foreclosure, the bank promptly contracted to return the property to the church. Since that time, the building has become recognized as one of the premier components of the surrounding neighborhood of Bronzeville.
As the third oldest black church in Columbus, younger only than the parent church and a congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the congregation has long played a significant part in the life of Mount Vernon. In recognition of its significance in local history, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. The congregation remains active in the wider Baptist community as a part of the Eastern Union Missionary Baptist Association.
Shiloh Baptist Church - Presented by Kamron Compton - Mifflin High School 2022
Built in 1911 as a state-of-the-art hospital and later converted into an upscale boutique hotel, this near east side landmark—just blocks from downtown Columbus, Ohio—has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a touch of celebrity.
The Saint Clair Hospital, designed by architect Jacob Goldsmith, was a community hospital from 1911 to 1948, serving primarily the immigrant laborers on the Pennsylvania Railroad junction. Many of the original features of the hospital are still preserved to this day, such as the nursing station arch, the mahogany wood door frames, and the white tile flooring where the operating room used to be.
In 1948, the building was purchased by Zelpha and William Garrett, an African American couple living in the neighborhood, who together converted it into a swanky, upscale hotel. Operating as a hotel for almost thirty years, it boasted luxurious amenities such as central air conditioning, elevator, dining room service, cocktail lounges, valet, and telegraph service. The hotel was frequented by numerous well-known entertainers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington’s band, Count Basie, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., and Della Reese.
The Hotel St. Clair was well-known for welcoming African American patrons at a time when many Columbus hotels demanded “whites only.” In doing so, Hotel St. Clair stood as a beacon light at a time of segregation and exclusion. It was a gathering place for children who bought candy from the front desk, and during the late 1950’s it hosted meetings held by a neighborhood improvement association. This spirit of inclusiveness and community-mindedness remains a core part of the building and those associated with it to this day.
After sitting vacant for 25 years–even becoming a target for demolition–the Hotel St. Clair earned designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. That same year, a major $2.8MM historic renovation was started which saved the building and brought it back to its original grandeur. The efforts of Fred Schwab, Willis Brown, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing under the leadership of Hal Keller, and the City of Columbus under the leadership of Michael B. Coleman were instrumental in saving the hotel. Between 2001 and 2016, the building was operated as senior apartments, first by Christian Community Development Corp. and subsequently by Community Housing Network.
In 2017, the Kelley Companies, a local family real estate company, acquired and fully renovated the building into new market-rate apartments. All units were given high-quality finishes and fixtures and the original building elements were restored. Common areas—particularly the main lobby—were renovated to resemble how it might have looked during its years of grandeur as a 1950’s boutique hotel.
In partnership with the Columbus City School and our friends at The Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, we look forward to presenting this video soon.
The Pythian Temple and James Pythian Theater is an historic building in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. Historically part of the Knights of Pythias, the building was built in 1925 in the Colonial Revival architectural style. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1983, under the name "York Rite Masonic Temple."
From March 1987 to 2019 it housed the King Arts Complex, named in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The building was listed as one of the most endangered sites in the city, on the Columbus Landmarks' 2021 list. The King Arts Complex vacated the building in 2019, and a portion of it was listed for sale in 2020.
In 2021 it was purchased by local arts organization, The Maroon Arts Group.
In partnership with the Columbus City School and our friends at The Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, we look forward to presenting this video soon.
In the 1930s and ‘40s, downtown Columbus’ near east side was home to an affluent African American business and entertainment district, known as Bronzeville. At the time, segregation actually fueled the commercial and cultural development of the area, as African American consumers could only patronize the African American businesses in the neighborhood. As a result, a thriving, self-sufficient community developed which celebrated its cultural heritage and created its own opportunity. James Albert “Al” Jackson, a very successful African American real estate owner and entrepreneur, and his partner James “Ernie” Williams built, owned, and operated the District’s Empress Theatre, the Empress Soda Grill, and the Crystal Slipper Ballroom. According to oral history, Jackson was angered by the purchase of the nearby Vernon Theatre by a white-owned theatre chain with a “No Admission to Negroes” policy and decided to build a grand and beautiful theatre especially for Columbus’ African American population. Jackson and Williams debuted the Lincoln Theatre, originally named the Ogden Theatre and Ballroom, on Thanksgiving Day 1928. Developed, designed, constructed, and managed entirely by African Americans, the Lincoln Theatre quickly became the place to see and be seen. Its rich, Egyptian Revival-style décor boasted architectural details inspired by the Temple of Karnak, including massive, ornately gilded stage pillars and a vibrant symbol of Isis above the proscenium arch. Not long after the theatre’s celebrated opening, a precocious, three-year-old Sammy Davis Jr. spontaneously debuted his talents on the Ogden stage, his first performance in a career that would span more than 60 years. The community came to the Lincoln for the latest films, vaudeville, and her signature specialty—jazz. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, Bronzeville was known nationally as a major jazz center, and the Ogden Club (later renamed the Lincoln Ballroom) on the second floor of the building became one of the most popular venues in the country for live jazz. Since downtown hotels served “whites only, "traveling African American musicians and performers were housed in King-Lincoln hotels, many just blocks from the Lincoln. Ironically, the racial intolerance which put these musicians in such close proximity to the theatre is believed to have ultimately graced the Lincoln with appearances from legends such as Count Basie, James Brown, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Etta James, and Columbus native Nancy Wilson.
The Lincoln Theater - Presented by Alexis Gugel - Mifflin High School 2022
From that humble beginning has sprung the first and also the oldest black church in Columbus, St. Paul. In 1814, the first Methodist Church in Columbus was erected which was located on a lot donated by the city (Town Street Methodist Episcopal Church). In 1823, Moses Freeman separated from the Town Street Church and with only 12 followers he organized an independent society. At the beginning they held their meetings from house to house, then in rented rooms until 1839 when they erected their church on East Long Street. Finally, in 1824 they were able to worship in a building of their own. It was just a little log cabin located on the east side of Lazelle Street north of Spring Street. This, their first church was named Bethel. The first pastor’s name is unknown; however, these are the good people who constituted the congregation: Allen and Sarah Brown, George Stanton, Edward Smith, Anthony and Nancy Barrett, Wyatt and Cynthia Johnson, Amos Dandridge, Joseph and Esther Harris, Richard and Mason Butcher, James and Abby Bland, Jacob and Esther Brown, Robert Butcher and family. Outgrowing the little log cabin, in 1830 another site was selected on Long Street between Third and High Streets the First Annual Conference of what was then known as the Western or Ohio Annual Conference of the AME Church – was held in this building August 26, 1837. Bishop Moses Brown, who organized the Conference in 1833, presided. The frame building was too small for the occasion and an attempt was made to extend it. Poles were cut and brought from the nearby woods and placed in position, cross poles were then laid and covered with bushes, thus a temporary covering was provided for the extension. The members and delegates used rough oak board for seats, with tallow candles for lights. The members of Bethel AME Church continued to work together to solve their common problems. Having surmounted the sacrifices and struggles which confronted them during their first 21 years, they were now prepared to meet the challenges ahead. The sacrifices and struggles were not in vain for God crowned their efforts with success and the church grew rapidly. In 1841 a brick church was built replacing the old frame building at the same location it was completed in 1844. A new site was consent on the north side of Long Street almost directly opposite Bethel Church. William Jones, deacon and member of the church called upon the owner of the property, Mrs. Stanberry, and persuaded her to sell the lot to the church for $3000 with time payments. A new church with a new name. Members went to work with a notable spirit of consecration and devotion to build their new church. In 1870 construction began under the administration of Rev. J.P. Underwood, the church was completed in 1871 at a cost of $14,000. Bishop Daniel A. Payne officiated the dedication of the church July 12, 1872, assisted by Rev. Phillip Tolliver of Chillicothe. General Conference was held at St. Paul in 1890. From its pulpit went five pastors to highest honor in the AME Church, that being elected Bishop. They are John M. Brown, James A. Shorter, Benjamin W. Arnett, Isaac N. Ross and Joshua H. Jones. The first school for the education of black youths was established by St. Paul. Rev. John Brown was the first teacher. Mother Ellen Belt, age 92 and oldest member born in Columbus was one of its pupils. The first graduates were Everett Warring and Tom Spencer. In 1905, under the pastorate of Rev. Robert R. Downs, lots were purchased for $6,000 at the location where the church now stands, 639 E. Long. Erection of the edifice began immediately and completed at a cost of $40,000 under the pastorate of Rev. J.W. Henderson. It was completed in 1906. The original color of the building was grey, pressed brick with sandstone trim. A pipe organ was installed in March 1920 at a cost of $7,408. Mrs. Emma Coleman had the distinction of paying the last $10 due on the organ debit in l921. Rev. Alvia A. Shaw, assigned in October 1956, guided the purchase and remodeling of an old former laundry building across the street from the church. It became the Annex which housed the offices and multipurpose space, kitchen and rooms upstairs. Rev. Shaw changed the services time from one at 11 a.m., to 8 a.m. service and 11 a.m. Rev. Andrew A. Hughey followed Rev. Shaw in 1968. He served for five years. There many improvements to the church. A Young Adult Choir was formed; a Seniors Citizens program was organized. The first coordinator was Delores Mandeville, Nancy Winfrey Thomas and Lucille Chilton followed. Jackie Knight is current coordinator. Rev. Thomas E. Liggins was appointed to St. Paul in October 1973. He began several improvements to the church: new covering to the exterior to protect the fragile original bricks, new furnace, purchased the old barber shop building located on the lot west of the church and converted it into a Thrift Shop that was managed by Nancy Winfrey Thomas and staffed by church volunteers. The church purchased a house on Jefferson Avenue. The parsonage saw improvements. He introduced the bus ministry, a tape ministry service for shut-ins, delivery of Thanksgiving dinners to shut-ins. He and his officers developed renovation plans for the church called (Phase I); increased staff and purchased its first computer to handle the many programs and activities the office faced. Rev. Dr. Michael R. Bean was appointed in October 1989 after Rev. Liggins was appointed Presiding Elder for the Ohio Conference. Under Rev. Bean a complete renovation of the undercroft was done between October 1991 and spring 1992. During that time St. Paul worshipped at the Congregation Tifereth Israel Synagogue on East Broad Street. Steward Margaret Armstrong who worked at the Synagogue request of their facility on Sundays from 8- 9 a.m. The original Austin Pipe Organ was rebuilt at a cost of $100,000 and two church vans purchased. Afterwards, installed a handicap ramp, renovation of the Church Annex facility, procurement of a sound system and several other projects were completed. Rev. Dr. Taylor T. Thompson was assigned to St. Paul in November 2012. March 29, 2013, he and the Church’s Boards worked with financial institutions to resolve the financial crisis which threatened the sale of the church. After six years of much praying and hard word, the church’s position was stabilized. The church’s office was relocated to the overflow area in 2019. Improvements made were: new roof, gutters, painting the Sanctuary, installation of a cross behind the pulpit and TV monitors. Rev. Kevin Cooper was assigned to St. Paul October 2019. During his administration virtual church services (Facebook, Streaming, and Conference Call) were introduced because of the corona virus 19 which affected the world. Rev. Cooper held the first of these services on March 22, 2020 in the Sanctuary with a small praise team. The next services were held from his home with only his wife and son. He delivered powerful sermons which were well received. Because of his concern for the senior members he contacted them to check on their well-being and offered prayer
St Paul AME Columbus- Presented by Marvin Garcia Arrerla - Mifflin High School 2022
While on your tour, please support local business! As our community continues to grow and evolve, you'll find great restaurants and shopping outlets right here in Bronzeville.
Remember to take picture while on your tour and post to your social feed using hashtag #ColumbusBlackHistoryTours!