COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is planning to build a new patient rehab center on the east side, but in order to do so, they will have to demolish Henderson House, a historic Black landmark.
The proposal is receiving strong pushback from some community members.
The Henderson House was described as an important social hub when Columbus was still segregated. It was originally owned by former Ohio governor and U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes before it was bought by prominent attorney Leon Henderson.
The Hendersons established their home as an important social hub for traveling celebrities with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Wilt Chamberlain, and many more coming through its doors.
In the 1990s, it became the first Black-owned bed and breakfast in Ohio. It was sold in 2017.
In January of 2022, Ohio State purchased the land the Henderson House is on. In August, OSU announced the new rehabilitation hospital would be built adjacent to Outpatient Care East on Taylor Avenue.
Renderings of the new rehabilitation hospital are below.
“The location provides easy access to world-class rehabilitative care for people throughout central Ohio and is close to Ohio State East Hospital, should acute inpatient care become necessary for any rehabilitation patient,” the university said of the project. “We’re proud to make this investment in our beloved Near East Side community. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to provide this area with high-quality medical services so people can access the level of care they need, when and where they need it.”
One local historian said losing Henderson House could be devastating.
“I don’t think that other communities, white communities, recognize their history is two or three hundred buildings long,” historian Rita Fuller-Yates said. “Our history are five and 10 buildings long. So when we lose one building, it takes away from the whole legacy of our community.”
Fuller-Yates said it’s going to take the community coming together to create policies so these historic landmarks can be preserved.
The university has submitted a zoning proposal to the city of Columbus, for the Near East Area Commission to review on Feb. 16.
“It was always explained to me that this was safe, and I didn’t learn about it until last week that this was under zoning to be demolished,” Fuller-Yates said.
OSU Wexner Medical Center released a statement Monday saying, in part:
“We cherish the abundance of history this site holds, and we’re committed to honoring and respecting our neighbors. With input from the community through our series of discussions, we will develop a meaningful way to honor this location’s deep past and ensure its stories and legacy live on.”