a summary of important Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff annexation decisions and discussions

The Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory, attracting settlers to the Native American lands between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes. This area would ultimately become the State of Ohio in 1803. In 1795, the Treaty of Greenville was signed at Fort Greenville between the Wyandots and other Indians in the region, and Maj. Anthony Wayne. His troops had defeated Blue Jacket and his warriors the year before in the battle of Fallen Timbers. This treaty opened central and southern Ohio to settlement by white settlers, and closed the British forts in the area.

One of the first white men to enter the area as a result of the treaty was Lucas Sullivant, who surveyed the area and claimed much of the land. In 1797, he travelled north to the confluence of the Scioto and Whetstone (Olentangy) Rivers and laid out the town of Franklinton, as well as the land to the north between the rivers.

As part of the Land Ordinance of 1785, U.S. Geographer and surveyor Thomas Hutchins was charged with creating townships that were six square miles in size, having 36 lots of one square mile each. One of the 17 townships in what is now Franklin County was called Franklin Township, and Sullivant himself purchased the majority of the lots. Today, most of what was originally Franklin Township has been annexed by the city of Columbus. Other parts are now incorporated into the city of Grandview Heights and the village of Marble Cliff in in the northwest, and the village of Valleyview in the south.

Marble Cliff was the first suburb of Columbus to establish itself as an independent incorporation. Other suburbs, like Milo, chose to remain part of the township in which they were located. The Columbus Sunday Press featured the emerging community in a full page article on November 17, 1901. The article appeared on the eve of the election to choose village officers for the new Hamlet of Marble Cliff, which had been incorporated earlier. The new village encompassed the community of Sellsville (which was the winter home for the Sells Circus), the Price and Griswold Arlington Place subdivision (which was on the western bluff overlooking the Scioto River), George Urlin’s Grand View Heights subdivision (which was the southern bluff of what is now Grandview Heights), Croughton and Denmead’s Grand View subdivision (which was centrally located and just south of Third Avenue), and several others. The name was originally going to be the Hamlet of Arlington, but was changed due to another Arlington in the southern part of the state that resulted in confusion with mail.

The following transcription (lower right of map) was included with the original plat establishing the Hamlet of Marble Cliff in 1901:

"Beginning at the intersection of the South side of Third Avenue and the West bank of the Olentangy River, thence up the West bank of the Olentangy River and the West corporation line of the City of Columbus, Ohio, to a point 200 feet north of the North line of Fifth Avenue; thence West 200 feet distant from and parallel with the North line of Fifth Avenue, to the East right of way line of the Hocking Valley RR , thence Northwesterly with the East right of Way of the Hocking Valley RR to the North line of King Avenue; thence West with the North line of King Avenue to the center of the road running North from Fifth Avenue, between lots #1 and #19 of Miller's Subdivision, thence south with the center line of said road 670 feet; thence west and parallel with King Avenue aforesaid to the east bank of the Scioto River; thence southerly and easterly with the east and north banks of the Scioto River to the East line of Croughton, Denmead, and Pope's Grand View Subdivision; thence North along said east line of said subdivision to the South side of Third Avenue to place of beginning."

The Hamlet of Marble Cliff was set up in 1901 to be governed by a board of trustees, most of whom represented the north half of the fledgling hamlet. Friction soon developed between the north and south because of disputes over which part would benefit most from development, and who would pay the bulk of the expenses. Also, Mayor J. S. Ricketts, a minister who despised alcohol, adamantly opposed the saloons that were located along Fifth Avenue between the two rivers, and fined revelers, including prominent visitors to the Arlington Country Club (which was in the south portion of the hamlet). Many of the lots on the west side of the hamlet were sold with restrictions prohibiting liquor. So to keep saloons out, this part of the village was voted dry, while the Country Club and lots on the east side continued to be allowed to serve alcohol.

The southern residents took advantage of a new State law, and in January of 1903 they were allowed to detach themselves from the hamlet. The territories that withdrew were Arlington, Grandview and Chester Heights. As a result, Marble Cliff soon voted to surrender its municipality. Many discussions of annexation by Columbus followed this action, and the now 200 residents of the detached area asked for water and electricity. When they were denied, they voted in 1906 to incorporate as the Village of Grandview Heights.

After watching the early success of Grandview, the remaining section of the old Hamlet of Marble Cliff voted in 1908 to incorporate as a village. They were courted in 1925 to rejoin Grandview but chose to stay independent.

In 1911 Grandview began what was a sequential annexation of land that was developed as subdivisions, adding Wyandotte and Lincoln Roads from Third to Fifth. Later that year they annexed the entire block on which the high school and middle school are located, Grandview Avenue from Third to First, and Glendale and Avondale from First to the railroad. The next year they added Wyandotte and Lincoln from First south to the railroad. The north boundaries of these annexations were not straight for two reasons: they consciously chose to exclude the Italian enclave between Third and Fifth, and the city fathers worried about the expense of maintaining the right-of-ways along the Third Avenue corridor. Thus the annexation excluded many structures along the street between Third Avenue and the alleyway just to the south.

The city then moved east over the next few years to the present boundary, which was established with an annexation in 1922. This annexation included the Northwest Boulevard Company developments, the large Willard farm and the Salzgaber farm. The Salzgaber farmhouse still stands at the northeast corner of First and Grandview Avenues.

1906 incorporation map
1911 annexation 1
1911 annexation 2
1912 annexation
1922 annexation

In 1921 the residents rejected for a second time an attempt by Columbus to annex the suburbs of Grandview and Marble Cliff. The following year, arguing that because of the rate of growth in Grandview and Marble Cliff around 1922 and the resulting number of added fire runs, the City of Columbus (who had been providing fire service to the villages) began charging Grandview for service, and in 1923 cancelled all service. This action solidified the desire of Grandview to remain independent, but Columbus (unsuccessfully) tried a third time to aggressively pursue the Village in 1931, the same year Grandview grew large enough to be recognized as a city.

Columbus Dispatch, 1931

In 1954 Columbus elected a new mayor who was concerned that the city was being isolated by the growth of its suburbs. Jack Sensenbrenner’s proposed solution was simply that Columbus would strive to outgrow its suburbs. There was a large amount of unincorporated land surrounding Columbus, and his view was that if the City of Columbus could annex this land, then it, and not the suburbs, would benefit from new residents, as well as solving the issue that the suburb boundaries were in essence landlocking Columbus and preventing this growth. State laws in Ohio made annexation difficult, so Sensenbrenner and the Columbus City Council took a different approach. They knew that most smaller towns and townships could not afford to create and maintain their own water and sewer infrastructure, and these communities had contracted with Columbus to provide the utilities.

As a result of this philosophy, in early 1954 the Columbus City Council passed a resolution that stated "To preserve the city’s water supply for the benefit of residents of Columbus... no further extensions of existing water mains or no additional taps be made except in territories annexed to Columbus." They went even further the next year when they passed a second resolution that stated "To protect the health of the residents of Columbus... no further extensions of existing sewer mains, trunks, and laterals, or no additional taps be made in territories outside the corporate limits of the City of Columbus, except in territories annexed to Columbus."

In 1955, The Ohio General Assembly made (for some suburbs) the process and decisions of annexation a little easier. The law was changed so that people were no longer required to switch school districts if their hometown or city changed. This allowed residents in areas annexed by the city to gain the benefits of being part of the city but let them keep their previous school district. The new law gave a new reason to pursue annexation, getting the benefits of living in Columbus, while not having to deal with city schools.

In 1956, Franklin County commissioners decided to grant annexation of 426 acres of Franklin Township to Grandview. The area was bounded on the west by an irregular line near Grandview Avenue, south by the Scioto River, east by Olentangy River Road, and north by Goodale Blvd. Among acreage and properties included in the area were the Columbus Waterworks and filtration plant, plots owned by Marble Cliff Quarries and American Aggregates, the site of the proposed Sears Roebuck building, WBNS-TV, and the Palmer-Donavin Company. This decision was vigorously opposed by Columbus City Service Director Floyd Redick, City Atty. Chalmers Wylie, and other city officials. (Tri-Village News, Thursday, December 20, 1956)

However, early the next year two of the three county commissioners voted to reverse the previous decision of the Board and deny the petition asking annexation of this acreage along Dublin Road to Grandview Heights. As a compromise measure, the commissioners agreed that under the 1955 law they would recommend to the State Board of Education that the tax money for school support continue to go to the Grandview Heights School District, which it agreed to. By 1971, the value of this land, called the "Golden Finger", was $17,857,862, nearly 25% of the entire Grandview Heights tax base.

That year (1971), the state board of education reversed its decision and reassigned the income from this land back to Columbus City Schools. This was a devastating loss to the small Grandview school district and raised concerns all around the Columbus metropolitan region that other transfers would follow. Grandview appealed the decision, and the case wound its way through various court proceedings, until the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1975. (Gregory S. Jacobs, Getting Around Brown: Desegregation, Development, and the Columbus Public Schools, Ohio State University Press, 1998, pp 127-128)

The number of residents in Grandview Heights grew steadily until the mid-1980s, when a slight but steady decline began to take place. When Grandview incorporated in 1906, there were approximately 200 residents (45 in Marble Cliff). This number grew to 490 in 1910 and to 1795 in 1920 (216 in Marble Cliff). By State law, a community cannot be chartered as a city until 5000 people live there, which Grandview achieved in 1931. By 1940, this number had increased to 6960, and grew to over 8000 in 1980. According to 2000 census data, the population of Grandview Heights was 6695, while the population of Marble Cliff was 646. The combined area, after all of the annexations, is approximately 1.5 square miles (1.3 for Grandview and 0.2 for Marble Cliff.)

After all of the annexations and legal battles about adjacent land, Grandview remains an independent city, with its own schools and government resources. In 1915 Marble Cliff dissolved its school system, and in 1916 it joined with Grandview, which still provides that educational structure. Marble Cliff also contracts with Grandview for civic services, including fire and police, and is served by the Grandview Heights Public Library.