Visualizing Columbus Before Freeways

A new project uses historical records to reconstruct what Columbus neighborhoods looked like before freeways displaced them.

1 minute read

October 19, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


An Ohio State University project known as “Ghost Neighborhoods of Columbus” reconstructs the vibrant communities that once existed in the city before freeways tore through them through 3D imaging, prompting deeper questions such as “How much wealth-generating activities were lost? How many homes? How many institutions?” Mark Ferenchik, writing in the Columbus Dispatch, describes the project. “When you can visualize it, it really takes your breath away,” says project lead and professor Harvey Miller.

The researchers used old fire insurance maps from between 1897 and 1961 as well as historical photographs to reconstruct long-gone neighborhoods with accuracy. They are also interviewing residents who lived in these areas about their experiences. “Based on the OSU research, in Driving Park alone, the losses to the freeway system amounted to 286 houses, 86 garages, five “flats” (apartments), and three businesses.”

Today, some cities, states, and the federal government are beginning to recognize and attempting to redress the damage caused by rampant freeway construction by demolishing or repurposing urban roadways. The federal Reconnecting Communities Act, for example, provides $1 billion for highway removal projects around the country (though it should be noted that the program was whittled down from the originally proposed $20 billion).

Sunday, October 16, 2022 in The Columbus Dispatch

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