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Curious Cbus: The Smallest House In German Village

Archival photo of German Village street.
German Village Society
Archival photo of a German Village street.

Columbus’s historic German Village neighborhood certainly has its fair share of stately mansions, but the area is better known for its small “cozy” brick cottages.

Sherry Rea fondly remembers her grandparents' modest home. When that house changed hands, the new owners renovated and increased the living space with an addition.

"I felt the house was fine as it was," Rae said.

That got Rae wondering about how many tiny original homes were left in German Village. She wrote into WOSU's Curious Cbus to ask, “What is the smallest home in German Village and how many square feet is it?”

The reason so many of the houses in German Village are little is that when the area was first populated, it was actually south of the city limits.

In the mid-19th century, the land was cheap and parceled into smaller lots that brick masons, brewery workers, and other German immigrants could afford. Those frugal immigrants built their modest homes right up against the sidewalk to make room in the back for gardens and outhouses. The area thrived for decades.

Over a century later, however, the neighborhood went in decline, and was under threat by demolition and new construction. Thanks to heroic preservation efforts and the creation of the German Village Society, the neighborhood was revitalized and designated as a historic district by the city.

That means there are restrictions on what can be built. Over the years, homeowners devised creative ways to add more space to historic buildings while preserving the unique character of the neighborhood.

Though many homes have gotten additions, like Rae's grandparents' house, some “pristine” cottages remain more or less as they were decades ago.

So of those homes, which can claim the title of the smallest?

While German Village is famous for brick, the smallest home is actually a quaint wooden cottage on Whittier Steet.

According to county records, the house is just 504 square feet. Documents at the German Village Society show that the building was constructed around 1911.

It spent its first few years as a doctor’s office and became a residence and rental property in 1915, as it remains to this day.

German Village’s modest homes may seem old fashioned to some, but with the popularity of tiny houses and a minimalist lifestyle on the rise, it may turn out that German Village was ahead of its time.

Curious Cbus: What is the smallest home in German Village?

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Michael De Bonis develops and produces digital content including podcasts, videos, and news stories. He is also the editor of WOSU's award-winning Curious Cbus project. He moved to Columbus in 2012 to work as the producer of All Sides with Ann Fisher, the live news talk show on 89.7 NPR News.