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Ohio subdivision for WWII black vets seeks historic places listing

Oct. 13, 2013 - 12:22PM   |  
Henry Bolden Jr., 88, stands in front of his Hanford Village home on Oct. 9 in Columbus, Ohio. The neighborhood became the home for many African Americans veterans of WW II returning to settle using the GI Bill.
Henry Bolden Jr., 88, stands in front of his Hanford Village home on Oct. 9 in Columbus, Ohio. The neighborhood became the home for many African Americans veterans of WW II returning to settle using the GI Bill. (Mike Munden / AP)
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Oneita Streets, 92, stands near an Ohio historical marker that describes the history of Hanford Village on Oct. 9 in Columbus, Ohio. (Mike Munden / AP)

COLUMBUS, OHIO — A Columbus subdivision built and marketed exclusively to returning black veterans of World War II is under consideration for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1½-story mostly brick homes tucked between a railroad, Interstate 70 and busy city streets are small by today’s standards. But they represented opportunity for vets at a time when neighborhoods permitting blacks were limited even in the northern city.

Newly built houses blacks could buy were virtually nonexistent.

“Hanford Village illustrates the limits and struggle that African Americans engaged in related to their rights as citizens in a segregated environment,” according to the application pending with the National Register, a division of the National Park Service.

The Ohio Historic Sites Preservation Advisory Board approved the nomination to the register last month. The Ohio Historical Society will send in the nomination once the government shutdown ends. A decision is required in 45 days.

Most nominations that reach this level are approved, said Susan Tietz, the historical society’s National Register and Survey Manager.

Inclusion on the register doesn’t affect property rights or require anything of homeowners, but it is an important source of pride and recognition, Tietz said.

Hanford Village was a predominantly black community when the subdivision was built. It’s known formally as the George Washington Carver Addition but universally referred to as “the new village.” Among the development’s early residents were some Tuskegee Airmen stationed at a nearby Army Air Force base.

“Hanford Village was a family,” said Henry Bowden, 88, who still lives in the house he moved into in the 1940s and where he and his wife raised four sons and a daughter. “All of us cared about one another.”

“Everybody knew everybody,” recalled Oneita Streets, 92, who grew up in the old village and was forced to move in the 1960s when construction of I-70 destroyed large swaths of Hanford.

In its day, the subdivision was seen as a way to ease housing shortages for returning black veterans. But it had a troubled start: Prejudice prevented its construction as war-time housing. After the war, white residents opposed to expanding black housing in Columbus remained against it.

Some civil rights groups also opposed it, fearing it would lead to further segregation in the city.

Other historically black developments from the same era already on the National Register include Mayfair Mansions in Washington, D.C., and the Carverdale Addition in Oklahoma City.

A historical marker sits on the edge of the veterans’ subdivision with a brief description of the village’s history. Former residents say the National Register designation will help further preserve the community.

“It’s a way of life that, if not told, will go forgotten,” said Henry Bowden’s son, Hank.

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