Old Oaks is a turn-of-the-century streetcar suburb located about a mile east and south of Broad and High Streets, the epicenter of Downtown Columbus. The history of Old Oaks begins in 1891 when streetcar service became electrified. Prior to that time, horse-drawn trolleys traveling on Livingston Avenue stopped service at Ohio Avenue. In 1892, a group of developers platted the Oakwood Addition subdivision. A notable landmark, St. John’s Catholic Parsonage and School, was built in 1898, with neighborhood construction taking place throughout the thirty-year period from 1892 to 1922.
Many German Catholics actually moved from the South Side (in what is now German Village) to get away from the cramped housing and the foul-smell of the breweries and the Olentangy River (which was pretty much used as a sewer before the sewer lines were laid). Old Oaks can be likened to a turn-of-the Century New Albany. The Germans were close enough to schools, churches, extended family and businesses they knew but in an idyllic planned community. Past notable members of our community include William R. Gault, who was President of the Columbus Stock Yards and Vice-President of the Market Exchange Bank; Chic Harley, Ohio State University’s first 3-time All-American and for whom Harley field at East High School is named; and the Schottenstein Brothers, who went on to form M/I Schottenstein.
Today, Old Oaks is the most intact of Columbus’s turn-of-the-century streetcar era neighborhoods that shows the homes of the middle and upper classes. Homeowners were and are an economically, ethnically and religiously diverse group of people. Architectural styles include American Four-Squares in Mission and Neoclassical Revival styles, as well as Modified Queen Annes. Homes in the district show a predominance of architectural consistency with 2 ½ story brick homes that boast large front porches. It is also interesting to note that, even today, the Livingston Avenue bus service remains Bus Line #1.
Old Oaks became a Historic District in 1986 after a group of neighbors petitioned the city for the designation. Area residents went door to door to collect signatures from homeowners who indicated they wanted the “Historic District” designation. Old Oaks is bounded on the West by the homes on Ohio Avenue, on the East by the homes on Kimball Place, on the North by Mooberry Street, and on the South by Livingston Avenue.
The significance of the designation as a Historic District is that major exterior changes to a homes’ architecture cannot be made without the approval of the Historic Resources Commission in the form of a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). These changes include, but are not limited to: siding of a wood–frame home (wood siding should be maintained and re-siding with vinyl or aluminum is discouraged); repairing or replacing a roof (slate roofs should be repaired instead of replaced whenever possible; replacing slate roofs is discouraged); replacing windows (windows should be of like size and material as the original windows), and repainting your home. You must also get a COA for new paint colors and for adding fencing.