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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.

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Bexley History Booklists Recommendations

A Century Before Covid-19, Bexley’s First Pandemic

by Local History Librarian David

Research for this article contributed by Scott King-Owen, Ph.D, Teacher, Bexley City Schools.

One month before the First World War ended a second wave of the deadly Spanish Influenza pandemic, initially spread in military encampments by troop movement, found its way into the civilian population of central Ohio. Like Covid-19, a century later, the absence of medicine for treatment or a vaccine for prevention necessitated avoiding crowds, through isolation or quarantine, to control spread of the respiratory virus. 

By order of state health officials on October 11, 1918, all schools, colleges, churches, theatres, and places of public gathering in towns with populations of 3,000 or more were closed. Despite Bexley, only a decade old, having a population less than half of that requiring action, local officials followed suit with its more populous neighbor, Columbus.

Christ Lutheran Church suspended services for three weeks until the state allowed local officials to determine when to lift restrictions. Gathering for worship again required adequate ventilation, avoiding overcrowding, and those sick or with ill family members to stay home. 

Drug stores including Stuckey Drug Store at the northeast corner of East Main Street and South Drexel Avenue, later renamed Wentz Drug Store, were permitted to remain open after 8:30 P. M. as long as they only sold drugs. All other retail businesses and restaurants were ordered to close early.

Closed just over a month, schools were permitted to open in mid November. However as cases increased and more students were absent most closed again by early December. The Bexley School Board elected to keep students out of the classroom until the new year.  

At Capital University, young men uniformed and following military discipline had been housed at Loy Gymnasium, converted into barracks for the newly formed Student Army Training Corps. When the deadly influenza spread among their ranks the Bexley chapter of the local Red Cross stepped in to furnish and supply a hospital room on campus staffed by two trained nurses.

For one Bexley family the impact of the pandemic was particularly devastating, as Anna Schneider and her five children were all admitted to St. Anthony’s hospital ill with influenza. Only her husband Peter was spared and within one week the couple lost two daughters, Margaret, age 4, and Anna, 15 months old. Their deaths occurred in mid March of 1919 as the third and final wave of the pandemic dissipated.

From government orders, closures of schools, business, and churches and the need to avoid public gatherings and crowds the pandemic of 1918 was experienced in ways similar to that in 2020. Masks, the most effective way of preventing the spread of Spanish Influenza and Covid-19, came to symbolize both pandemics and just as gauze for face coverings was hard to find in 1918, personal protective equipment is in short supply today.

To learn more about the 1918 Spanish Influenza and today’s Covid-19 pandemic explore these titles recommended by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst:

  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry | print / digital
  • America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 by Alfred W. Crosby | print
  • Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney | print / digital
  • COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie | print
  • How We Live Now: Scenes From the Pandemic by Bill Hayes | print
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Booklists Recommendations

BPL Staff Favorites of 2020

by Adult Services Library Associate Nichole

As 2020 comes to a close, I asked staff to reflect on their favorites books, movies, and albums from this year. Some staff found it easy to narrow it down, while others couldn’t choose just one! Here are the BPL staff favorite books of 2020:

  • Christian’s PickThe Lucky Star by William T. Vollmann | print
  • David’s PickCOVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora MacKenzie | print
  • Hannah’s Pick Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Outdoors by Ray Mears | print
  • Juliana’s Favorite Memoir This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn | print
  • Juliana’s Favorite Fiction Read Writers & Lovers by Lily King | print / digital
  • Leann’s Science Fiction Pick A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green | print / digital
  • Leann’s Favorite Thriller The Guest List by Lucy Foley | print / digital
  • Nichole’s PickBeing Lolita by Alisson Wood | print
  • Sue’s Pick Deacon King Kong by James McBride | print / digital

Our favorite films from 2020 include:

  • Christian’s Pick Feels Good Man *currently unavailable through the CLC
  • Juliana’s Pick The Devil All the Time *currently only available on Netflix
  • Nichole’s Pick The King of Staten Island | DVD / Blu-Ray

And finally, our BPL staff favorite albums from 2020 include:

  • Christian’s Pick Heaven to a Tortured Mind by Yves Tumor | CD
  • Hannah’s Pick Old Flowers by Courtney Marie Andrews | CD
  • Jeff’s Pick Lianne La Havas | CD / digital
  • Juliana’s Pick Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers | CD
  • Kim’s PickWomen in Music Pt. III by HAIM | CD
  • Nichole’s Pick Circles by Mac Miller | CD / Vinyl / Digital

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Bexley History Booklists Recommendations

Is Jeffrey Mansion Haunted?

by Local History Librarian David

The feeling of a ghostly presence, knickknacks moved out of place, someone or something tapping one’s shoulder, but is Jeffrey Mansion, the Jacobethan Revival home on North Parkview Avenue, haunted?

Tales of its haunting have been attributed to unidentified individuals and their mysterious and unreported deaths. Perhaps it’s the spirit of a young woman, said to have been murdered there, that haunts the third floor, or that of a man, one supposedly hung himself in the tower while another from the staircase.

Donated to the City of Bexley in 1941, the original owner, former Mayor of Columbus Robert Hutchins Jeffrey, had the stone and brick residence built in 1905. He had long since moved out when he died in 1961 at Grant Hospital. His wife Alice Kilbourne Jeffrey died inside the home in 1922, but only after an illness lasting several months.

During the seventies, children experienced sightings of a witch, her white hair outlined by light in a second floor window. Then, opening the window, in a “scratchy, shaky, haunting voice,” the woman scared the children off. 
But, that was just Violet Ketner, who with her husband John, were live-in caretakers for nearly two decades. “I’m not really afraid,” she told a reporter from the Dispatch. “I’ve never seen anything.”  

For more ghostly tales and scary stories from around Columbus and Ohio explore these titles:

  • Haunted Ohio Series by Chris Woodyard / print
  • Haunted Ohio: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Buckeye State by Charles A Stansfield / print | digital
  • A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio by Nellie Kampmann / print
  • Columbus Ghosts: Historical Haunts of Ohio’s Capital by Robin L. Smith / print
  • Columbus Ghosts: More Central Ohio Haunts by Robin L. Smith / print

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Bexley History Booklists Recommendations

Bexley Women in the Fight for Suffrage

by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst

Columbus Evening Dispatch, September 2, 1912

Dressed in the costume of an English Militant Suffragette, Mrs William Drake Hamilton, the former Ann Eliza Deshler, attended a celebration carrying a can of nitroglycerin, bricks, and bombs. Her husband, Dr. William Drake Hamilton, dressed as a “suffrage sympathizer,” carried a vote for women banner.

It was the 1910s and Ann Hamilton and her sister, Miss Martha Deshler, members of the Taxpayers’ League, an organization seeking equal suffrage, were among Bexley’s women in the fight for full enfranchisement. The daughters of Deshler Bank President John G. Deshler, whose home was at the corner of Parkview and East Broad Street, hosted suffrage meetings and dignitaries in Hamilton’s Bexley home. 

The sisters, among those successful at petitioning Ohio’s Fourth Constitutional Convention to put the issue of equal suffrage before the voters, lost their fight in 1912, and when the votes were tallied Bexley proved “a non-suffrage town.”

Again, two years later, Ohio voters said no, but another Bexley pair had their eyes on a national amendment. Miss Florence Ralston, daughter of Ralston Steel Car Company President Joseph S. Ralston, who like the Hamilton’s lived on East Broad Street in Bexley, joined the College Equal Suffrage League as a student at Ohio State. In 1916 Florence and her mother attended the formation, in Washington D.C, of the National Women’s Party.

The mother and daughter pair were among those representing the local branch of the National Women’s Party at a 1918 meeting with then Senator Warren G. Harding at Columbus’ Southern Hotel. Though Harding did not fully commit to suffrage attendees were “encouraged” that a federal amendment would pass.

That October Senator Harding voted in favor of the Federal Suffrage Amendment, as he did in February and June of the following year. Ratified by the Ohio legislature on June 16, 1919 the women’s right to vote saw final ratification as the 19th Amendment in August of 1920.

For more about the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement explore these titles recommended by Adult Services Librarian Sue Shipe-Giles:

Research for this article contributed by Scott King-Owen, Ph.D, Teacher, Bexley City Schools.

Categories
Staff Book Reviews

History of Franklin County by William T. Martin, 1858

by BPL Team Member David

Written in 1858, William T. Martin’s History of Franklin County shares stories of the early settlement of Franklinton, by Lucas Sullivant, and how Columbus was formed as the site of Ohio’s capital. Written before the Civil War it is a rare account of the early history of places, such as the State Penitentiary and Columbus Canal, long since demolished and events, including the execution of Leatherlips, long forgotten. Illustrated with several early views Martin’s history is both educational and enjoyable.

Though original editions are rare and a 1969 reprint somewhat difficult to find this book is an easy find online. It as well as countless other volumes that have entered the public domain can be accessed via HathiTrust, a digital library founded in 2008. A collaborative effort of academic and research libraries, HathiTrust provides digital access to over 17 million digitized items. Go to HathiTrust.org and search for “History of Franklin County Ohio William Martin,” or any topic you desire.