History & Photo Galleries

The History of Camp Chase

Camp Chase was established on May 27th, 1861 as a Union Recruiting & Training Camp. It was named for Salmon P. Chase, former governor of Ohio & President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury.

Originally named Camp Jackson & located on the current Goodale Park land, the rapidly growing camp quickly outgrew the site and was moved 4 miles west of downtown on the National Road across from the 4 Mile House Inn.

Camp Chase was located on a flat tract of ground that was known as “The Racegrounds” prior to the war. The land was originally owned by Michael L. Sullivant, son of Lucas Sullivant, who founded Franklinton after the Revolutionary War. Michael Sullivant sold the land that now lies between West Broad Street & Sullivant Avenue (Hague Avenue to approximately Wilson Road) to John G. Holloway of Kentucky. Holloway then leased the land to the federal government for the military camp.

Camp Chase was established on May 27th, 1861 as a Union Recruiting & Training Camp. It was named for Salmon P. Chase, former governor of Ohio & President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury.

The original prison was built to house 250 prisoners & was located in the southeastern corner of the camp, where today Wicklow Road & Palmetto Street intersect with Hague Avenue. The prison was enlarged two times; at the height of the Civil War, there were 9,146 men held in the area. It is generally believed that the gate to the original prison lies near home plate on the West High School baseball field. The prison was guarded by 650 guards, working in shifts & walking the catwalk around & above the 12-foot high wooden fence surrounding the compound.

Some famous Americans who came through Camp Chase were Lew Wallace (best known for authoring the book Ben Hur), & U.S. presidents William McKinley, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, & Andrew Johnson.

On July 5, 1865, the prison commander notified the U.S. War Department that Camp Chase had been emptied of prisoners.

The Camp Chase National Cemetery

Camp Chase Cemetery stands as one of only two remaining federal properties in Columbus that were created during the Civil War. (The other property is the Shot Tower at Fort Hayes.)

The first memorial service for the soldiers buried in the then abandoned & decaying camp cemetery was held in 1895, arranged by retired Union Colonel William Knauss.  He also planned the construction of the stone arch that was erected & dedicated in 1902.

The headstones, manufactured by a Marble Company in Nelson, Georgia were placed between 1906 and 1908 at a cost of $2.90 per stone, and the cemetery’s podium was built during the Great Depression in conjunction with a WPA cleaning project.  The headstones are not original & do not mark the individual graves. (During the 1864-5 smallpox outbreak, so many prisoners died that mass graves were used, & they extend south beyond the cemetery boundaries, across Sullivant Avenue.)

Bean Dinners became popular events after the Civil War, as veterans from both north & south gathered at reunions to honor & remember their dead, to reminisce, & to cook simple food in the style of the war campaigns – beans, cornbread (if you were lucky) & coffee. While some dinners in southern Ohio began more than 130 years ago, The Hilltop Bean Dinner did not commence until the 193os, sponsored by the group now known as the Hilltop Business Association.  The event continues as a community festival, held the last Saturday in June in Westgate Park.

Each year the Hilltop Historical Society holds a memorial service the second Sunday in June honoring all American soldiers lost during all of the great conflicts.  The event includes re-enactment soldiers and women dressed as Louisiana Rainsburgh Briggs, also known as the ghostly “Lady in Gray”.  Mrs. Briggs’ grandson was the featured speaker at the 2011 memorial service.

In 2010, the federal government paid for the headstones to be cleaned, repaired and/or replaced.  The cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is maintained by the Dayton National Cemetery.

Land Transfers of the Camp Chase Property (Post Civil War) & Surrounding Acreage of the Westgate Neighborhood:

Members of the Short Creek Quarterly Meeting of the Quaker Church who were living along the Ohio River learned of the pending auction of the 463 ½ acres comprising Camp Chase along with other land on Sullivant’s Hill, now known as the Hilltop. Five Quaker men came in 1870 to look at the land & formulated their dream of a Quaker settlement. They returned in 1872, and on January 23rd purchased 400 acres for $87.50 per acre. The buyers & their purchases were J.C. McGrew (80 acres), Robert Hague (80 acres), Miller Gibson (100 acres), William Binns (100 acres), and John Watson (40 acres).

In 1874, John Hussey came to Columbus & purchased the remaining 63 ½ acres. Soon, other Quakers joined the original settlers – John Cowgill, Herbert Haldy, William H. Harris & son Warren, Joseph Miller, & Lewis Ong & son Joseph. Several streets in and around Westgate are named for the Quaker settlers.

Although much of the original Camp Chase land was sold to a real estate agency & subdivided for housing in 1905, building of the homes in Westgate did not begin until the 1920s.

Vintage photo courtesy Jeff Wise and Andy Lucas.

Vintage photo featuring the Binns Blvd island. Courtesy Jeff Wise and Andy Lucas. Published in Celebrating Westgate: Snapshots, Historical Notes, Memories & Recipes from a Unique Columbus Neighborhood.

Homes from the 2017 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2016 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2015 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2014 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2013 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2012 Westgate Home and Garden Tour:

Homes from the 2011 Westgate Home and Garden Tour: