These schools were considered suburban 100 years ago—now they’re in the urban core.

The Eighth Avenue school was located at Indianola and E. 8th Avenue, where a fire station is located today. Some of the original fencing still remains.

When we think of suburbs now, we might think of wide open spaces outside of I-270. A century ago, however, places considered “suburban” were much closer to downtown Columbus. A series of local directories show which schools were classified as urban or suburban, and how that changed over time.

The Columbus City Directory, produced by the Polk Company, included a list of public and private schools in the area. The public school listings separated the schools into “Public Schools” and “Suburban Schools” beginning in 1910. The schools listed in the suburban section in 1910 give an indication into what was considered “suburban,” in a geographic sense, at the time.

Neighborhood schools in South Linden, the University District, Milo-Grogan, and Clintonville were considered suburban. The non-suburban schools (marked as “urban” in the table below) were closer to the urban core. This is one way to consider how Columbus thought of urban and suburban environments in the early 20th century.

From 1900 to 1910, just one school made the transition from being considered urban to suburban: Sullivant Avenue School at Sullivant & Central. From 1910 to 1919, only one school did: Grandview School at Broadview & W. First Avenue.

However, some schools also transitioned from being considered suburban to urban. From 1910 to 1919, three schools made the transition: Clinton, E. 11th Avenue, and Indianola. All on the north side, they were classified during an era when streetcars and automobiles effectively made the city smaller. Once distant, quiet residential sections were becoming built-up and more populated—like Linden and Clintonville.

Indianola School


11th Avenue School


Clinton Elementary


Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library, My History

Will places considered suburban total be thought of as urban a century from now?

The change in popular understanding of what defines suburban and urban environment highlights the fluidity of social constructs. Most things are along a spectrum, including things we might put into rigid categories—like built forms. What’s more important is to consider the implications of our categorization, not the categories themselves.

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