Watch an earlier report on Ohio State’s plans to demolish the Henderson House in the video player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – One of the last standing sites of Black central Ohio history has been spared the blow of Ohio State University’s cranes and bulldozers.
After community outcry, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center has walked back plans to demolish the Henderson House for its new inpatient rehabilitation hospital, the medical center announced Friday. The 19th-century house on Columbus’ East Side, originally owned by former Ohio governor and U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, was bought by Leon Henderson and turned into a social hub for the Black community.
“Ohio State heard us. They are with us at the table, and not just about this concern over the new hospital and the house,” Julialynne Walker, chair of the Near East Side advisory committee and chair of the Franklin Park Civic Association, said in a press release. “I’m encouraged by this process of building a partnership that will work on the mutually important matters for our community.”
Under the Henderson family’s ownership, the house became the focus of Black socialization during a time when Columbus – and much of central Ohio – was still segregated. For decades, scores of Black celebrities cycled through the historic building’s doors, including Louis Armstrong and Wilt Chamberlain.
In the 1990s, the Henderson House became Ohio’s first Black-owned bed and breakfast. It was sold in 2017.
Last January, Ohio State bought the land Henderson House occupies at Taylor Avenue and Atcheson Street. In August 2022, the medical center announced it would begin construction on an 80-bed, 86,000-square-foot inpatient rehabilitation hospital for survivors of strokes and brain and spinal injuries.
Nearby residents and Black community members disavowed Ohio State’s plans to demolish the house, whose land it selected because of its “easy access to major transportation arteries,” according to an August 2022 press release.
Now, Ohio State is “evaluating alternative sites” for the rehabilitation hospital, which was originally expected to replace the Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital in 2025.
“I don’t think that other communities, white communities, recognize their history is two or three hundred buildings long,” historian Rita Fuller-Yates told NBC4 in February. “Our history are five and 10 buildings long. So when we lose one building, it takes away from the whole legacy of our community.”