Picturesque Bexley, Ohio neighborhood in Spring. May 5, 2006. Author: Mah Jong
Bexley is considered one of the most desirable areas in Greater Columbus, with a diverse range of housing options, old and new, and a variety of excellent educational institutions. This historic suburb is perhaps best known, however, for its large houses and estates, located primarily in Bullitt Park. The most famous of these include the Jeffrey Park Mansion (aka "Kelveden"), the home of the president of The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Governor's Mansion. Located in northern Bexley, the Governor’s Mansion — originally built as a private residence in 1925 and given to the state in 1955 — has been home to Ohio governors from 1957-2010 since Governor John Kasich controversially decided to live in Westerville.
Bexley, Ohio, was named at the suggestion of an early resident, Col. Lincoln Kilbourne, in honor of his family's roots in the London Borough of Bexley. The village of Bexley was incorporated in 1908 when prominent citizens of Bullitt Park along Alum Creek, including industrialist and former Mayor of Columbus Robert H. Jeffrey, agreed to merge with the Lutheran community of Pleasant Ridge near Capital University and the Lutheran seminary.
Bullitt Park had been founded in 1889, when Logan M. Bullitt of Philadelphia submitted his first plat for the area. Wealthy citizens of Columbus continued to build urban townhouses and country homes to the east along Broad Street and Town Road (now Bryden Road), extending to Franklin Park. By the 1890s, several large homes took root across Alum Creek in the Bullitt Park area, one of which becoming the original campus of the Columbus School for Girls, still an exclusive girls' private school in Bexley.
The onset of the Spanish-American War was also instrumental in Bexley's history. In 1898, Ohio Governor Asa Bushnell chose a cluster of unsold lots around Broad and Drexel in Bullitt Park as an assembly site for those headed for war. Camp Bushnell, as it was known, was home for three weeks to 8,000 Ohio volunteers headed for Cuba. This led to the development of water and sewer lines for the soldiers, thus preparing the area for later real estate development.
By 1908, the residents of Bullitt Park north of Main Street, and Pleasant Ridge south of Main Street, decided to merge their neighborhoods and incorporated as the Village of Bexley. The village reached the 5,000 population mark required by the state of Ohio to become a city in 1928 (still a requirement) and, on New Year's Day 1932, Bexley officially became a city. William A. Schneider was elected the first mayor of the City of Bexley in 1935. Mayor Schneider built the first city hall, and led Bexley through a long and profitable growth period. He remained in office for 32 years before retiring.
Bexley has been the home of many prominent citizens, including the former governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, U.S. Senator George Voinovich, Bob Greene--the former Chicago Tribune columnist who wrote Be True to Your School, children's author R. L. Stine, cartoonist Paul Palnik, and Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner. Also significant is amateur meteorologist William Jefferson Hoyer, founder of Lakeside, Ohio.
Perhaps less prominent but certainly notable, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, also lived in the city at one point, before moving to Hollywood. Other former residents include Frank Lesser, a writer for the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, and Nate Beeler, the editorial cartoonist for The Washington Examiner whose cartoons also appear in The San Francisco Examiner; USA Today; and The Los Angeles Times. Mr. Beeler is also internationally syndicated to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Cartoons. Josh Radnor, the star of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother; Marco Arment, lead developer of the blogging website Tumblr; and Laurie Lea Schaefer, Miss America of 1972, have also called Bexley home. Harvey Wasserman, noted writer and leading anti-nuclear activist, lives in Bexley (the famous 1970s phrase "No Nukes" is partially attributed to him).
Singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon, founder of the American rock bands Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin, lived in Bexley from elementary school through 8th grade. The late poet and philanthropist Donna J. Stone (née von Schoenweiler) grew up in Bullitt Park. The highly regarded Jewish scholar Stephanie Taylor is a current Bexley resident, and soccer player Seth Stammler of the New York Red Bulls lives in Bexley during the off-season. We should never forget the well schooled Thomas C Easley who serves on the soccer board.
Reopened in 1981, the original 1930's-era Drexel Art House Movie Theater in Bexley remains. Drexel has another independently-run theater in the Arena District. (Due to a dispute between Gateway and Drexel, a third location at the South Campus Gateway is no longer owned by Drexel and is now called the Landmark Gateway Theater.)
Rubino's Pizzeria, mentioned in Be True to Your School, has become famous for barely changing since its opening in the early 1950s. Rubino's does not deliver, and only accepts cash or checks. The Main Street address is its only location and has always been independently run. Known for its thin crust pizza, carryout pizzas are packaged in paper rather than cardboard boxes. Interestingly enough, Rubino's was founded by a man named Rubin Cohen. Another long-standing family-run business is Johnson's Real Ice Cream just east of the pizzeria.
Bexley houses many works from well-known artists. For example, it is the home of a number of sculptor and Holocaust survivor Alfred Tibor's creations, including those at the Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Saint Charles Preparatory School, and the Congregation Agudas Achim.
Columbus School for Girls (CSG), founded in 1898, is one of the oldest private schools in the city. Located for nearly 50 years in a stately Georgian mansion known as "Parsons Place", in 1946 CSG moved to a more modern mansion with larger grounds on South Columbia Avenue in Bexley. This remains the school's main campus, which today is one out of three total campuses. Columbus School for Girls resisted becoming a "finishing school" from its inception. It boasted a college-preparatory curriculum early on and, unlike some exclusive all-girls schools at the time, actively encouraged its privileged students to seek a college education—preferably at equally prestigious colleges for women. Courses have always included many foreign languages, including an array of Latin classes, as well as rigorous studies in literature, art, and history. Advanced math and science are required, as is participation in a community service program. There is also an extensive athletics program, which includes an award-winning field hockey team. The school reports over 30 adacemic and special-interest clubs, including the Latin club that is a chapter of the National Junior Classical League, and participation in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Program that spans elementary through high school. CSG remains one of the only all-girls schools in the area. The Columbus School for Girls website states, "100 percent of the graduates are accepted into and attend four-year colleges and universities across the country."
Saint Charles Preparatory School (St. Charles) is a Catholic college preparatory school for boys, located just inside the Bexley city limits. It was founded in 1923 by the Bishop of Columbus, James J. Hartley, as a Roman Catholic college seminary. Today, St. Charles is an all-boys high school serving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus. The Cardinals, as the athletic teams are known, have been soccer, golf, swimming, and track individual state champions. St. Charles also boasts some of the best academic statistics in the city. In 2008, St. Charles reports it had the largest number of National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists per capita in the Columbus Metro Area (10 out of a total enrollment of 621), and was second overall only to Upper Arlington High School, an excellent public school in the neighboring city of Upper Arlington (18 out of a total enrollment of 1851). Courses include religion, English, math, science, social studies, fine arts, and foreign languages including an extensive Latin program. Its Latin club is also a chapter of the National Junior Classical League. Of its graduating seniors, the Saint Charles Preparatory School website reports, "100% of the graduates go on to college or other further education."
Another prestigious all-boys private school, Columbus Academy, was founded in Bexley in 1911 and housed in a stately mansion in Bullitt Park. During the first half of the 20th century, Columbus Academy and Columbus School for Girls, both populated primarily by Protestant students from wealthy Anglo-Germanic families, held most of their joint school activities and "mixers" with each other. As Bexley became more diverse, sectarian lines like these were softened, such that now Bexley is known as somewhat progressive for a city of similar history and socio-economic background. (However, relations between CSG and St. Charles are still described as strained.) Columbus Academy grew, and relocated to Gahanna (northeast of Columbus) in 1968. It became co-ed in 1991.
The Bexley City School District is one of the city's major draws. Bexley High School is considered one of the top high schools in Ohio. It has been rated as one of the top 5% performing schools in the nation, was ranked in the top 2% of Ohio high schools for the Ohio Proficiency Test, and was listed in U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek as one of the top public high schools in the nation (U.S. News: Silver Medal, 2009; Newsweek: Top 1000 High Schools, 2005–2009). Further, the Bexley City School District website says of Bexley High School, "It offers one of the best college preparatory programs in Ohio, with a 2009 college matriculation rate of 95 percent." The school district also offers an illustrious athletics program. The Bexley Lions is the team name shared by Bexley High School and Bexley Middle School. The Lions have been state champions in boys' basketball, boys' soccer, girls' volleyball, and boys' and girls' tennis. And on a socially and educationally progressive note, in 1986, the Bexley City School District was the first school district in Ohio to abolish corporal punishment. Today, only 15 school districts statewide use corporal punishment, and they are required by Ohio law to honor all requests by parents not to administer corporal punishment to their children.
Bexley is also home to three institutions of higher education. Capital University is a private liberal arts university, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Founded in 1830, it is one of the oldest and largest Lutheran-affiliated universities in the country. It boasts an impressive list undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as the Capital University Law School. The law school has several preeminent faculty members (as does the university), and cites numerous prominent attorneys among its alumni. In 2008, the law school's graduates reported the highest pass rate of Ohio's nine law schools for first-time takers of the Ohio State Bar Exam. And by 2009, Capital's law grads ranked well above the state average for four consecutive years in passing the bar exam on the first attempt.
Like Capital University, Trinity Lutheran Seminary was founded in 1830, and is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Trinity was initially called the German Theological Seminary of the Ohio Synod, then renamed to the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary. The original campus was in Canton, Ohio, but soon moved to Columbus. In 1974, the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary merged with the Hamma Divinity School, which itself dated to 1845, thus forming Trinity Lutheran Seminary. The combined seminary opened its doors in 1978. Trinity is a fully accredited school of theology, and remains affiliated with the ELCA.
Bexley Hall is an Episcopal seminary founded in 1823 by Philander Chase, the Bishop of Ohio. Most of the East Coast Episcopal leadership did not see the need for another seminary, and denied financial support to Bishop Chase. So he went to England and appealed to his Anglican colleagues, and won their overwhelming support. A victorious Chase returned to Gambier, Ohio, and founded Kenyon College, an Episcopal liberal arts college. In conjunction with Kenyon, he opened the seminary on the same campus. Still in Gambier, Bexley Hall was eventually identified as a separate institution and named after one of Kenyon College's biggest benefactors, the retired English Chancellor of the Exchequer, coincidentally known as Lord Bexley. Bexley Hall remained affiliated with Kenyon College until 1968, when it broke ties with Kenyon and relocated to Rochester, New York, forming a new association with the Baptist seminary Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. In 1998, Bexley Hall returned to its native Ohio, sharing a campus with Trinity Lutheran Seminary...coincidentally located in Bexley. The aptly-named seminary remains a part of the Episcopal Church USA.
Government & Police
The current mayor of Bexley is John M. Brennan, elected in 2008. In his first year as mayor he saved the city over a million dollars. Before becoming the mayor of Bexley Brennan served with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1967 to 1969. From 1972 through 1984, Brennan worked for the City of Bexley in the Recreation and Parks Department and became the Recreation and Parks Director. He has been the past Recreation and Parks Director for both the City of Dublin and the City of Hilliard. He was awarded “Parks and Recreation Director of the Year” for the State of Ohio for his outstanding service as a city employee while serving in Hilliard, 2004. John Brennan served as a member of the Bexley City Council from 1988 to 1995. He served as President of City Council from 1994 through 1995. Law enforcement in Bexley dates back to 1908 when Bexley officially became a village. At that time the laws of the village were enforced by one Village Marshall. In 1931 Bexley became a city and the police department had grown to six officers. Today the department has twenty-eight sworn officers. On April 30, 2007, Lawrence L. Rinehart became the ninth Chief of the Bexley Police Department. Chief Rinehart had served previously with the Gahanna Police Department for thirteen years, rising to the rank of Deputy Chief of Police. On November 17, 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Bexley Police Headquarters at 559 North Cassingham Road. The building features expanded capabilities for emergency operations, training, and fitness. On December 31, 2009 Bexley police personnel officially moved into the new Bexley Police Facility at 559 North Cassingham Road.
There were 4,705 households out of which 40.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.9% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 23.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $70,200, and the median income for a family was $83,363. Males had a median income of $56,573 versus $39,851 for females. The per capita income for the city was $37,375. About 3.1% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.7% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.
Not surprisingly, the demographics of Bullitt Park, one of the oldest and most fabled neighborhoods in Bexley, has been the subject of further analysis. Here is a summary of one such example:
According to urban geography professor Stephen R. Higley, Ph.D., and his website, The Higley 1000, the Bullitt Park section is ranked number 79 of the 100 highest-income neighborhoods in America, with a mean household income of $322,700. Higley lists the racial composition of Bullitt Park as 0.4% African American, 0.5% Asian, 0.2% Hispanic, and 98.9% White (non-Hispanic). This data is reportedly based on the 2000 Census. More info about Dr. Higley's research methodology, including his use of "social registers" and zip codes, can be found on his website, and in his book, entitled Privilege, Power, and Place: The Geography of the American Upper Class.
Bexley, Ohio, has remained a community of primarily White residents with above-average resources. Over the years, however, its demographic make-up has become more diverse. For example, it is no longer almost exclusively Protestant. Perhaps due in part to Saint Charles Prep's long history in Bexley, Catholics have gained a solid and growing presence. As noted above, Bexley has become one of central Ohio's major Jewish American communities. Its proximity to Ohio State University in Columbus, one of the largest state universities in the country, may contribute to Bexley's growing racial and ethnic diversity. And Bexley's other institutions of higher education, although sectarian in religious affiliation, have likely contributed to the city's increasingly progressive reputation.