News | Feb. 10, 2021

African American History Month highlights Hanford Village as Hidden Gem

By Anita A. Jones African American Employment Program Chair

The Defense Supply Center Columbus’ Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity and the African American Employment Program commemorate Black History Month with a two-part series recognizing Hanford Village, a hidden gem in our local  community. This year’s national theme is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, Diversity.”  Part I of this series focuses on the representation of the Black Family in Hanford Village and the impact of zoning on the community.

Incorporated in 1909, Hanford Village was marketed to middle class African Americans as an opportunity to buy newly constructed quality housing. After World War II, a subdivision of Hanford became a segregated community for returning African American veterans to settle using the G.I. Bill.

The original portion of the village neighborhood lies between Alum Creek and the City of Bexley. The newer district is located two miles southeast of downtown Columbus near the Driving Park neighborhood. The old and new village portions are separated by Interstate 70.

Former resident George Holliman recalled what it was like growing up there. Holliman later served on the committee to add Hanford Village to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

“I was born in Hanford Village in 1950 and we moved to Driving Park in 1964,” Holliman said.  “Our house at 724 Bowman Avenue was one of the last houses to be demolished in the “old” village. Hanford Village consisted of what the residents called the old and new village.  The ‘old’ village consisted of families that were part of the Great Migration – people from Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia. The ‘new’ village was built for the World War II returning veterans, many who were from the Lockbourne Air Base. Some were Tuskegee airmen.”

Living within a community has a direct effect on how the community identifies itself in relation to society. The ability of the Black Family to create its’ own identity within Hanford Village provided immeasurable opportunities for its residents. This is something Defense Logistics Agency retiree Evelyn Doughty knows firsthand.

“Growing up in Hanford Village was really a great experience,” Doughty said. “Children were taught to respect their elders and each other. We were secluded in a neighborhood that had their own park to socialize, a carnival, movie theaters, store and three Churches. We were protected and watched over. Everyone knew each other, the parents knew each other’s children so you couldn’t get away with anything. We were taught to take care of our elderly neighbors. It was just a great experience.”

During the 1960s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Federal Interstate Highway System Act resulted in the construction of Interstate 70 which split Hanford Village into two sections and tore apart the community.

“The greatest negative impact of the destruction on Hanford Village was on the older residents,” Holliman said. “Many of the families in the “old” village had moved there in the early 1920s. You had multi-generational families – living in separate households – on the same street.  Families were split.  Lifetime friends were moving to various parts of Columbus. And remember the ‘new’ village – the homes built for returning servicemen and their families – they had only been in those houses for less than a generation and they were being torn down. They had endured discrimination in the service, fought for their country, and now they were being displaced.”

The Black Family was historically misrepresented during the planning stages of zoning, construction and municipal re-structuring. Although Hanford Village was one of the few places involved in an African American post-war housing development program in the United States, this designation did not prevent the destruction of a striving community. By recognizing Hanford Village as a hidden gem in the Columbus community, we hope to shed light on the obstacles which have shaped how the Black Family identifies itself despite the destruction of their community.

"One fact that has remained is that all Hanford residents considered themselves family and to this day that bond remains strong. If you resided in Hanford pre-Interstate 70, we all say, 'Hanford is in our blood,'” Holliman said.

For additional information on the impact Hanford Village had on the Black Family, please stay tuned for Hanford Village Part II: The Identity and Diversity of the Black Family.