The History of Grove City

Grove City is a self-made community created from humble pioneer origins. As the 19th century began, the area where Grove City sits today was, simply put, a wilderness filled with oak, beech, maple, walnut, dogwood and other trees. There was not a road or bridge to grace this land when Ohio became a state in 1803, nor were there any in 1815 when Jackson Township was carved from Franklin Township.

School Grove City’s first settler, Hugh Grant, operated a gristmill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania around the turn of the 18th century. Grant was known to transport his excess goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to sell and would return to Pittsburgh on foot. Presumably, on one of these trips he walked through the Scioto Valley region and liked what he saw. He purchased land in 1803 in the area that would become Grove City and returned with his wife Catharine to start a new life. They were the first European settlers in the area. Unfortunately, Grant was killed shortly after his arrival in a freak accident.

Grove City’s founder, William F. Breck, visited the area with an eye for farming. He bought 15.25 acres of the farm owned by Hugh Grant, Jr., son of the first settler in Jackson Township, then added 300 more acres west of Broadway intending to work the land. Breck’s original plan changed when he realized the potential for growth since Harrisburg Turnpike passed through the area to the state capital. Breck envisioned a new village complete with a school, church, stores, blacksmith and carpenter shops. Soon, Breck formed a commission with George Weygandt, William Sibray and Jeremiah Smith and platted the village on the east side of Broadway. By December of 1853, the newly formed (but not yet incorporated) village of Grove City had 50 residents. The town founders named the village for the remaining groves of trees left standing after their initial clearing.

Breck’s home was on the south side of Columbus Street (then Church Street) between what is now Arbutus Avenue and First Street. Just to the west of his home sat his combination office/general store near the corner of Broadway and Columbus Street. Within the next 10 years, Breck built the village’s first post office, brick yard and saw mill. In 1864, he was in the midst of building the Woodland Hotel at the corner of Broadway and Park Street (to be used as a combination home and overnight rest stop for travelers) when he, like Grant, was killed in a freak accident.

From 1870 to 1900, remnants of the frontier were rapidly disappearing and modern, two-story brick and frame buildings sprang up. In 1884 the first train ran from Columbus to Midland City. The railroad increased the shipping of cattle, pork, grains and lumber three fold. By 1870 the village boasted a population of 143 people and more town businesses began to sprout. In 1891, the Cincinnati, Midland City and Columbus Railroad (later the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) brought passenger service to its freight line between Harrisburg, Grove City and Columbus. The track ran alongside the Harrisburg Turnpike. The daily service brought commuters to Columbus in the morning and returned them in the evening. The railroad offered free rides to passengers who shipped goods with the company and helped make Grove City more commuter-friendly.

While Grove City was served by a daily commuter service offered by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, A.G. Grant decided that the village would be better served by an interurban electric train that would bring passengers to Columbus on a more frequent basis. Not only would village residents benefit, but the interurban would serve as a powerful lure to new residents as part of the sub-urbanization movement that was taking hold throughout the country. The interurban was responsible for a significant amount of the population growth around the turn of the century. Its last car ran in October 1929 and was replaced by the automobile.

The first thoroughbred racetrack in Ohio opened at Beulah Park in 1923 after Colonel Westwater sold the property to the Capital City Racing Association. The track’s convenient location to Columbus via the interurban electric line ensured its popularity.

Grove City became an entertainment destination during the 1920s. People came to town not just to be entertained by the racing, but to also view movies at the Kingdom Theatre, to dance at Grant’s Auditorium or to dine in several family restaurants. Musicians could be found all over town and, for a few years, there was an organ factory on West Park Street.

By 1930, Grove City boasted of a population of 1,550 people. There were a sufficient number of doctors, dentists and pharmacists to serve the area population. Car and tire dealerships dotted the downtown area, as did gas stations.

The World War II years were busy ones for the community with over 500 area men and women serving in the Armed Forces. A boom in housing began after the war as workers from Ohio and other states sought employment at the General Motors and Westinghouse plants west of Grove City. Many others liked the convenience of driving only six miles to downtown Columbus to work.

In the early 1960s, Interstate-71 was built followed a few years later by Interstate-270. Grove City was now at the foot of two major interstate highways, and many businesses found root in what used to be farm fields.

Source: Authors Janet Shailer and Laura Lanese, Grove City, Images of America