Curious Cbus: The Stories Behind Columbus Street Names

Jun 19, 2018

As part of our Curious Cbus series, WOSU collects questions from listeners and investigates the answers. But since the project started, a lot of the questions we've received have centered around various Columbus streets and where their names came from.

We've answered many of your street name questions and compiled an FAQ about just how these names come around. Keep an eye on this page: We'll be updating it with more information as additional questions come in!

Here is what we've covered so far:

What is the history of Fishinger Road?

Fishinger Road was completed in 1904 and was petitioned for by the Fishinger family. Specifically, the petitioner was likely William A. Fishinger, who was the Deputy State Fire Marshal of Franklin County and the Franklin County Recorder for two terms starting in 1912.

Before he worked for Franklin County, William worked in the milling business with his father, Frederick Fishinger. Frederick owned several mills in the Upper Arlington area including the Fishinger Mill. The mill was demolished when the Griggs Dam was constructed on the Scioto River and any remains are now under water. 

(Asked by Leslie Laufman)

Who is Cassady Avenue named after?

Portrait of Thomas Cassady published in 1890 and photograph of his home published in 1900.
Credit Ohio State Journal and Johnston Publishing Co. / Columbus Metropolitan Library

There is no clear record of when Cassady Avenue was built or named. The reason for this may be because “Cassady” is spelled several ways in many historical records: At various times it's been “Cassady,” “Cassidy” and “Cassiday.”

A man named Thomas D. Cassady owned land in 1883 on this road. He was born in Newark in 1844 and as a boy, worked under the editor at The Daily Ohio Statesman, a short-lived Democratic newspaper in Columbus. He then became a brick layer on a farm that existed on what is now the Ohio State Fairgrounds. After getting married, Thomas bought his own farm on land that now includes Cassady Avenue.

Cassady became very involved in local government, serving as township treasurer of Mifflin Township in East Columbus for 12 years. In 1888, Thomas was elected County Commissioner of Franklin County, and served a second term a few years later in 1891. 

(Asked by Tayler Johnson and James Cassady)

Why are there two different streets in the North Linden area called Melrose Avenue?

If you drive through Linden on Cleveland Avenue, you may notice that after you pass Melrose Avenue, you’ll pass another Melrose Avenue less than two miles later.

According to their records at the Franklin County Engineer's Office, the subdivisions that contain both roads were approved in 1910. The main difference between the two—and a likely part of the reason why we have two Melrose Avenues so close together—is that one was accepted as an addition to the City of Columbus and the other was accepted as part of Clinton Township. So technically, the roads are in two different municipalities.

(Asked by Eddie Kinnaman)

What's the story behind Africa Road? 

The Delaware County Historical Society recounted that an unincorporated village located on Africa Road, near the intersection of Big Walnut, was originally named "East Orange." According to Africa’s historical marker, residents with anti-slavery sentiments conflicted with the community’s pro-slavery Methodist church. Those against slavery built their own congregation, Wesleyan Methodists, but were pejoratively called “Africa.”

This led to the name change, as did the arrival of 18 freed slaves in 1859. Traveling from North Carolina by the underground railroad, the “Alston Freed Slaves” settled on Samuel Patterson’s farm in Delaware County. The historical marker notes they were employed and lived in log cabins. Later, the Alstons left Africa and lived in Westerville, as well as Van Wert and Paulding counties. 

Was there ever a cemetery on Cemetery Road in Hilliard?

Hilliard Ohio Historical Society notes that Wesley Chapel Cemetery was founded in 1818. In 1870, a federal law passed that said public funds could be used to construct roads from towns to the local cemetery. Thus, Cemetery Road was built for easy travel to Wesley Chapel.

Until 1914, Cemetery Road used to include what is now named Dublin Road.

How did Gender Road get its name?

According to the Franklin County Engineer's Office, roads were often established by a “road petition,” where residents would request their county to institute a road for the public. One of the petitioners for Gender Road in Canal-Winchester was a man named Jacob Gender. The road may be his namesake. 

(Asked by Dan Noonan)

What's the origin of Kossuth Street?

Lajos (Louis) Kossuth was a 19th century Hungarian Governor-President. He was a powerful orator and champion of democracy. After he visited the United States, streets were named after him in cities like Columbus, Ohio and Lafayette, Indiana. Kossuth Sttreet now runs through German Village.

Fifth Street South looking north from East Kossuth Street in German Village.
Credit Columbus Library

How did Mound Street get its name? 

In the 1800s, there was a 40-foot tall, 300-foot wide, Indian mound in the middle of Mound and High Street. By 1812, when the Ohio General Assembly commissioned Joel Wright to lay out Columbus, he named the street in the south end of downtown after the ancient landmark.

As Columbus Neighborhoods reported in November 2016, this mound was one of 10,000 found in Ohio, but increasing traffic nearby led to its removal in the 1830s. “Clay from that mound was used in virtually every initial brick building in the city, including the original Statehouse,” said Ed Lentz, a Columbus historian.

(Asked by Del Sroufe) 

How did Refugee Road get its name? 

As WOSU first reported in April 2017, the Revolutionary War was not only fought by America and Great Britain but included Canadian and Nova Scotian soldiers. Great Britain convicted those Canadian soldiers of treason, because they were fighting for the U.S., and seized their land. This left many Canadians homeless after the war ended in 1783.

In 1801, Congress decided to compensate those Canadian soldiers with territory. This resulted in the Refugee Tract, which outlined claimants and boundaries in Franklin, Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties. The tract covered over 58,000 acres, and 67 people made it their home. Refugee Road in southeast Columbus was born out of the tract and first emerged in the Columbus City directory in 1904.

Plots of land in the Refugee Tract, drawn by surveyor Elnathan Scofield, which was given by the U.S. government to Canadian allies from the Revolutionary War.
Credit Ohio History Connection

Was there ever a sawmill on Sawmill Road? 

Yes, Sawmill Road is named after a sawmill in the area just south of I-270 in Dublin.

Nobody's quite clear about where the exact location was, though, because its origin has not been heavily researched.

(Asked by Chris Loper, Alex Silbajoris, David Zumbach and many others) 

Who decides on the street names when new developments are created? 

For the most part, real estate, subdivision or land developers submit street names and relevant city departments review them.

(Asked by Jean Lewis)

Why are some street names upper case and others lower case? 

The Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides the guidelines for street name signs. Signs in all capital letters are no longer allowed. Those already in place can remain as long as they fulfill all other requirements.

(Asked by Lucas A. Gualtieri)

Got a question about Columbus history that doesn't involve roads? Submit your question to Curious Cbus below, and WOSU may just find out the answer in a story.