Westerville. It’s Just Right.

The Stoner House where George Stoner lived.

The Stoner House where George Stoner lived.

Westerville has grown to become central Ohio’s largest suburb, but has maintained its small-town feel while preserving its physical and cultural past. Residents consider the city’s charm and historic Uptown District among their favorite community attributes.

In 1806, Revolutionary War veteran Edward Phelps and Isaac Griswold, settled along Alum Creek at Blendon Corners (Westerville Road and St. Rte. 161). In 1809, Garrit Sharp established a residence as well. Matthew and Peter Westervelt scouted central Ohio between 1814-1816; part of a lineage of pioneers who left Holland in 1662 for what is now an area near Brooklyn, NY. The Westervelt’s were attracted to this area because of its cheap, available land. In 1816 they bought 890 acres along the eastern bank of Alum Creek for $3,562. By 1818, four Westervelt siblings were living here.

In 1820, Gideon Hart settled along Hempstead Road; it’s the oldest home still standing in Westerville and one of a dozen community buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. It remains a private residence.

Westerville’s population grew to nearly 700 by 1830. In 1840, the community was officially named Westerville after the Westervelt’s, partly due to their generous land donations.

Westerville has been a symbol for equality and education since before the Civil War. Otterbein, founded as Otterbein University in 1847, was the first institution of higher learning in the US to admit women without restrictions, to include women on its faculty, and one of the first to admit students of color. Lewis Davis, President of Otterbein prior to the Civil War, was involved in the Underground Railroad; many homes involved still stand today, including the George Stoner, Alkire and Timothy Lee home.

The railroad was built in 1873, spurring economic activity for local mills, including the Everal Tile Company. In recognition of its heritage, the Everal barn and homestead were recently renovated and are the focal points of Heritage Park.

Westerville became the epicenter of a debate about the legality of alcohol in 1909, when the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) moved to Westerville. In 1930, the first public library opened in the Purley Baker home, owned by the ASL. Three years later, municipal government offices moved into a renovated home, owned by B.T. Thomas on S. State Street. The move was part of a government relief project during the Depression. Construction on Westerville’s first city park began in 1934; Alum Creek Park is one of Westerville’s most popular play and relaxation areas.

By 1950, population was at 4,102. In 1955, the library moved to its current location at 126 S. State Street. In the 1960s Westerville was recognized as a city for the first time, passing its first city charter. Westerville South HS was dedicated; our first shopping center was opened and we hired our first full-time fire chief. 

In 1970, population was 12,530 and 32,269 by 1990. During the 1980s, with land use about 90% residential, city leaders began focusing on development efforts to ease future tax burdens on residents for city services. As a result, Mount Carmel St. Ann’s became central Ohio’s first planned suburban hospital. Soon after, Brooksedge and Eastwind became prominent business developments, along with Westerville Commerce Center, Uptown District, Westar Center of Business, and others. 

In 1999, Cleveland Avenue and Polaris Parkway extensions opened, providing access to I-71 from northern Westerville. In 2001, the Parks & Recreation Department received a national gold medal for service excellence and the Community Center opened. In 2003, the editors of Sports Illustrated named Westerville Sportstown Ohio and Central HS opened its doors, celebrating its first graduating class in 2006. 

Westerville provides more city services than any other central Ohio suburb, with 150+ full-time police officers and firefighters, an electric division that serves all Westerville, a water division recognized as one of Ohio’s best, a state-of-the-art rec center, and countless other city services. The School District’s estimated enrollment is 14,000, with more than twenty schools.

We’ve gone through many changes during our nearly two-century history. We’ve shown ourselves rich in heritage, culture, pride, and vision – from the original settlers who took part in the Revolutionary War and those who risked it all in the Underground Railroad – to today’s residents who aspire to make Westerville a better community for future generations. 

Temperance Row
Westerville’s Temperance Row Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, recognized by the National Park Service as a significant enclave where leaders of the ASL in 1919 won Prohibition against the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquor.

The 20 homes built in 1910-1935 were styled along the lines of an agrarian-romantic movement that espoused rustic Craftsman architecture, using natural materials and design to enhance wholesome home life seen as instrumental in social reform.

From 1893-1933, the ASL was one of the most powerful special-interest political movements in American history, and non-alcoholic Westerville was the league’s kind of town; “so dry,” said ASL Capitol Hill lobbyist Wayne Wheeler, “you have to sprinkle the streets after a rain.”

Anti-Saloon League
Influencing the US through lobbying and the printed word, the ASL turned a moral crusade against the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol into the Prohibition Amendment to the US Constitution.

Under the motto "The Saloon Must Go," they worked to unify public anti-alcohol sentiment, enforce existing temperance laws and enact further anti-alcohol legislation. At first, the League appealed to churches to further its message. With a loyal following, the leaders then focused their efforts on getting politicians elected who supported the cause. They used fliers, pamphlets, songs, stories, cartoons, dramas, magazines and newspapers for promotion.

Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad’s history is shrouded in mystery. With the first slave brought to this country, dreams of freedom tantalized those held in bondage. Slaves fled to Florida to live with Native Americans, into the swamps of Georgia, to the Caribbean and up through the north to Canada. It’s estimated that from 1830-1860, 30,000 slaves escaped. Because of its illegal and dangerous nature, little documentation remains for this clandestine activity.