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Bexley History Programs

Bexley’s Victory Gardens

by Local History Librarian David

War time rationing of the food supply combined with shortages in production found many front yards across Bexley converted into vegetable gardens. These Victory Gardens that first appeared during World War I were encouraged during World War II by the Bexley Garden Club.

Experiencing demand for ground to plant gardens, the garden club acquired undeveloped land, rent free, from the Berwick Corporation. Located on the south side of Livingston Avenue, the ten acre tract was divided into forty by fifty foot plots, plowed and fertilized, and offered to anyone desiring to plant a garden of vegetables to aid the war effort.

In March of 1943, Bexley residents lined up at the Bexley Garden Club headquarters, at Bexley Public Library, and registered for over two hundred plots. During a meeting at the Montrose school building, a specialist in vegetable gardening from The Ohio State University provided advice and for two hours daily, a garden clinic was held at the library to distribute literature.

Victory Gardens were not entirely without problems. Soon after their planting the city began to enforce “an almost forgotten ordinance” to prevent dogs, who were feeding on the gardens, from roaming the streets. Emboldened by the dog quarantine, rats became a problem and by June complaints of rats eating the produce poured into city hall.

Despite losses of crops, the amount of produce grown in Victory Gardens across the United States during the Second World War was estimated to be equal to commercial production. After the war, such mass production in gardens waned, but renewed efforts to promote Victory Gardens emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Victory over Virus Gardens” promoted by the Ohio State Extension and Ohio Department of Agriculture during the fall of 2020, produced carrots, kale, beets, radishes, lettuce, and herbs, much of which were donated to community food pantries. The Bexley Community Gardens were included in the “pilot gardens” across the state.

To learn more about Bexley’s Community Gardens and the history and architecture of the homes on this year’s Bexley Women’s Club House & Garden Tour, join us for a virtual program via Zoom at 7 PM on Thursday, May 20. Registration is required.

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Bexley History Programs Recommendations

Pizza in Bexley

by Local History Librarian David

One of Bexley’s oldest businesses, Rubino’s, was established in 1954 by Ruben Cohen, who adapted his Jewish name to sound more Italian as the name of his pizzeria and spaghetti restaurant. There were only ten places in Columbus for pizza at the time, and Cohen made Rubino’s special for its thin crispy crust and “fairly secret” sauce recipe.

When the red brick building was sold in 1983, over five hundred Bexley citizens signed a petition while others picketed outside of city hall to save Rubino’s. The city denied the new owner’s request for a zoning variance that would convert the restaurant into a meat market, and Rubino’s renegotiated its lease.

In 1988, Cohen sold the restaurant to employees Frank Marchese and Tommy Culley. Operated today by Marchese’s children, little of the atmosphere, neon signs, and dining room have changed: only the competition along Main Street. 

Bexley Pizza Plus was established in 1980 by Don Schmitt. It was originally located in the 2500 block of E Main Street, and relocated next door to Rubino’s in 2006. Brad Rocco, a graduate of Bexley High School, started as a delivery driver at Bexley Pizza Plus, and went on to become the co-owner in 1994. They gained national and international attention in pizza competitions, like competing two years with the U.S Pizza Team, and winning the International Pizza Challenge in 2014.

Read more about the history of pizza in Columbus, Ohio in Jim Ellison’s new book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History, available now at BPL and Gramercy Books in Bexley.

To hear more about Bexley Pizza Plus listen to BPL’s podcast, 40+ Years of Bexley Pizza Plus with Brad Rocco.

Join us on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 PM to hear author Jim Ellison discuss his book by registering for Bexley Public Library’s virtual program, A Slice of Columbus Pizza History.