COLUMBUS (WCMH) – An area of Columbus that’s often forgotten dates back to 1865.
Today, it’d be called a “low-income neighborhood.”
But Flytown was home, a place of happiness for so many, a source of refuge for immigrants and Blacks escaping the Jim Crow south.
The community, tucked away just northwest of downtown, has thousands of people driving through it each and every day.
I-670 is a popular east-west thoroughfare in Columbus and, in a roundabout way, is connected to generations of people who call the Capital City home.
“The city of Columbus took these photographs and put these in reports to show people we need to pass this bond levy to get this money to take out these neighborhoods,” said Aaron O’Donovan of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
O’Donovan is talking about the 1956 city-commissioned “Slum Clearance And Rehabilitation Commission Report,” declaring areas like these slums.
At points, African Americans made up half of the people who lived in Flytown. The report declared that the neighborhood “must go,” said “they cost too much” for the city.
“The boundaries would roughly be the Olentangy River to the west side, Spruce Street to the south side, Dennison Avenue to the east side, and Goodale to the north side,” O’Donovan said. “Flytown is one of the most important neighborhoods in Columbus.”
Flytown was an area of industry in the city, which was important for Black leaving the south. Upon their arrival, they could find work.
As for how it got it’s name, O’Donovan said there are two schools of thought.
“It’s called Flytown because of the insects that were there because of the slaughter house,” O’Donovan said. “I’ve heard that before, or it’s called Flytown because the houses flew up overnight because the companies needed to build housing for their workers.”
The community was eventually cleared for urban development. That project, called the Goodale Redevelopment Plan, includes the Goodale Expressway, which would later become I-670.
“The mid 1950s to the early 70s is when they were really building highways,” O’Donovan said.
A huge number of those people affected by that project were low-income, immigrants, people of color, and African American – the residents who made up Flytown.
“The people that really didn’t have a political voice,” O’Donovan said.
Today, a marker in Goodale Park teaches people about Flytown.
I-670 is a connector to the past, and to those who came to Columbus looking for a better life.
Like the grandfather of NBC 4’s Kerry Charles, who migrated from the south in the early 1950s. The interstate eventually took over the house he shared with his brother before he went back for the rest of his family.
While Flytown had a large Black population, 17 known nationalities lived in the community. When all of them were displaced, the government found housing for them in other parts of the city.
Flytown reunions are still held in Goodale Park.