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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Rose Hill: An Early Columbus Suburb

Built in 1835 for Thacker Howard, this structure was one of the new city's most beautiful homes. It was located at 629 20th Street with the house and grounds placed in the forks of what became Talbotton and Hamilton Roads.  It was owned for many years by Mr. and Mrs. James C. Cook, Jr.  Cook’s wife, Mary Louise Redd Cook, planted extensive rose gardens on the estate which, at that time, contained fifteen acres.  She named her home, Rosemont.   The Rose Hill community also received its name from Mrs. Cook, who suggested it because of the numerous area homes with lovely rose gardens. The community traced its origins before the Civil War when several large estates occupied the area. During the latter part of the 19th century, these estates were subdivided.

Standing back from 2015 Sixth Avenue, surrounded by lawns and ancient live oaks, was the home of Judge Grigsby Thomas.  It was built in the 1850s with wide piazzas, Doric columns, marble mantels, and a ballroom. The home sat on an entire block, and, by the 1880s, the property was subdivided with newer Victorian homes built as its neighbors. Several of those homes are still standing.

South of Rosemont was the seventeen-acre estate of Albert Gresham Redd.  He built the English Gothic Revival home in 1859. There were originally seventeen rooms in the home, in addition to a ballroom. It was one of the most unique homes in Columbus. In 1925, four rooms were sliced off and made into a separate house with a garden.  The Redd House was demolished in 1955 for a parking lot.

Columbus was one of the first cities in the South to regain its economic vitality after the Civil War.  By 1880, the city entered a tremendous building boom in industrial, commercial, and residential construction.  This building boom, which continued unabated until well after the turn of the century, was further accelerated by the construction of seven railroads into the city between 1885 and 1890. In 1887, Columbus annexed Rose Hill, a rapidly growing suburb. During the last quarter of the 19th Century, the large estates in the area were subdivided into much smaller residential building lots.  A mix of affluent and middle-class residents occupied the homes built afterward and shaped the community.  There were also a few African American families that lived in Rose Hill; however, they would leave when racial tensions increased in Columbus in the early 20th Century.  The predominant architectural style in Rose Hill is Victorian. 

This Victorian brick home (above) was built in 1889.  It sat in Rose Hill at 621 20th Street on the northeast corner with Hamilton Road.   In 1910, Hattie Lou Miller married Roy E. Martin, Sr., founder of the Martin Theater Chain, and they lived in the home for several years. The house was demolished in the 1980s. To the right of the house was the home known as Rosemont.

411 21st Street (above) was built c.1889 by Amelia Cantey and John Harris Thomas. They were a locally prominent, upper-middle-class African American couple. Renowned African American artist Alma Thomas was born in the house in 1891 and lived there until 1907 when her family left Columbus and moved to Washington, D. C. Art critics have praised Alma Thomas as “a leading figure in abstract color painting” and stated that “she brought new life to abstract painting in the 1970s.”  The art world agrees that she was an exceptional artist who gained national recognition after a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971.  Today, her work can be viewed in many major museums.  The Columbus Museum holds an important collection of Thomas’s paintings, watercolors, sculptures, and marionettes, as well as a significant archive of her papers.  The Smithsonian American Art Museum also has an archive of her paintings and family papers. In 2001, Historic Columbus participated in the restoration of the house before and after a fire occurred during the rehabilitation work.  HCF’s investment totaled $20,000 in rehab assistance.  The Alma Thomas House was listed on the National Register in 2010.

Rosehill Elementary School (above) was designed by Thomas Woefin Smith and built in 1900.  Two storied over an English basement, this brick and stone structure was designed on the Quincy Plan – a new concept in school arrangement, which allowed maximum light and ventilation, that was developed in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1845. Thomas W. Smith also designed the Rose Hill United Methodist Church (below) in 1908.  The entrance to the red brick building is recessed with two Tuscan columns supporting a pediment.  A dome rises in the center of a very low-pitched roof.

Hamilton Road was lined with cottages and a few larger two-story homes, both Victorian and Classical.  There were also two churches and several commercial buildings.  The Rose Hill Baptist Church was also built in 1900.  The church’s building committee included R.M. Kirven, C.W. Mizell, and R. L. Johnson – all members of old Columbus families.  In the next few blocks is the Rose Hill Odd Fellows Temple (below), instituted in 1910.  The two-story brick building with commercial space on the first floor was designed by Charles F. Hickman and built by Butts Lumber Company in 1916.

After World War II, upper- and middle-class residents began moving to new subdivisions and were replaced by working-class families, many moving into single-family houses that had been divided into apartments.  In the late 20th century, the area became the home of several medical offices.  Unfortunately, the neighborhood lost many of its significant homes from the 1960s through to today.   However, in spite of the continuous deterioration of its housing, the historic neighborhood still contains two landmark restaurants we enjoy – Rose Hill Seafood and Evelyn’s Café.

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