An Interrupted Start
After King and Ben Thompson purchased 840 acres of farmland from James T. Miller, they hired William Pitkin, Jr., of Rochester, New York to create the design. They originally called their project the “Country Club District,” inspired by the Country Club District in Kansas City. Pitkin’s design allowed the streets to follow the contours of the land, with open park spaces and houses set back from the roads. King and his wife, Ethel, picked street names from English magazines.
Development was interrupted in 1916 with the creation of Camp Willis (pictured left). That March, 17 Americans were killed in a military camp raid at the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Army to chase the perpetrator, General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, into Mexico. A presidential decree dated June 18, 1916 gave Ohio Governor Frank Willis authority to seize a site for a training camp for Ohio National Guardsmen—the Thompsons’ land was the perfect location. While the camp was only active between June and September of 1916, it caused significant damage to the site, and the Thompson brothers had to restart their development in the fall of 1916.
By 1918, the community had grown to 200 residents, and on March 20 of that year, the Village of Upper Arlington was incorporated. James T. Miller was selected as its first mayor.
Why "Upper Arlington?"
At one time the area now known as Marble Cliff was named Arlington. However, it was renamed Marble Cliff, since another town named Arlington already existed in Ohio. Since the Thompsons’ development was north of the area that had been commonly referred to as Arlington, they named it Upper Arlington.
Did You Know?
- Construction began on the first road— Roxbury Road—in 1914.
- The first residents of Upper Arlington were members of the Warren Armstrong family. While their house was being built, they lived above the Columbus Gun Club at Cambridge Boulevard and West Fifth Avenue.
- The first house belonged to Frank Bornhauser at 1722 Bedford Road.
- James T. Miller’s son Henry was one of the first residents, living at 1860 Cambridge Boulevard. James’ sister Grace was photographed in front of his home in 1918 (pictured right).