A Well into Walhalla – Seeking the Rest of Clintonville’s Ravine (Walhalla part 1)

Or, How Grate It Is – and Are There Any Valkyries Down There?

Walhalla Ravine: What happens to this urban micro-canyon…

…when it hits the asphalt and concrete no-man’s-land of the High Street corridor?

But first: HOW did it get that NAME?!

Wikipedia notes that “the streets in the Walhalla Park Place section of Clintonville bear the legacy of Mathias Armbruster, a Bavarian immigrant who was fascinated with Norse mythology and Wagnerian opera…”

More from “Clintonville Street Names” in Clintonville History: “Walhalla was named by Mathias Armbruster, an immigrant from Bavaria and the first owner of the ravine (1859). In Norse mythology, Walhalla means ‘The Great Hall of Dead Warriors.’

“Other streets named for mythological characters include Brynhild (a queen of Iceland), Midgard (god of the earth), Mimring (god of water) and Gudrun (a Nordic princess).”

Wikipedia includes Druid Street in its list; my Celtic heritage feels slighted that Clintonville History has omitted it, if it belongs on the list. I wouldn’t know; I haven’t watched any Wagner…except for Bugs Bunny’s interpretation.

Maybe I can dig up that old animated ‘five-minute’ explanation, but I can’t find it on Youtube…

Meanwhile, Back at the Pavement

Peering through the openings (in the direction of flow)…
…It’s a deep well-like shaft down to flowing water. On the west side, to the right, is a thick slab of poured concrete undergirding the road over about a third of the shaft. To the west-southwest, a pipe maybe four feet down drains from sumps in the adjacent driveway.

Curiously, a historical photo shows what appears to be a steel cover over this opening. Ooh…historical documentation of an underground thing that no one notices as they walk or drive over it…yummy. (There’s also a trolley or interurban line running down the center of a narrower divided High Street. If only…)
At the very bottom of the brick well is…a hole into a tunnel! This is the creek that flows through Walhalla Ravine, getting its first – and probably last – shaft of daylight after a hundred feet of tunnel.

Poor thing. This is the best it will get for the next 1,500 feet.

It’s flowing to the west, to the right. The tunnel looks like rough unreinforced concrete, which would date it maybe from 1890 to WWI.

I can’t post videos here unless I pay for the privilege, so see my moving look into this dwarvish abode on my IHS Facebok page.

A Pearl Between Paradise and Peril

Looking east (upstream) from the grate and High Street are two pavement features. The square grate is one of two drain gratings over sumps in the driveway (of the apartments to the right), which then feed in under that main grate.

In the median on the left is a row of old stone curbing, lying flat. (Yes, that edge of the street a few inches tall must go down about three feet to be solidly anchored below the frost line in this climate.) The Walhalla culvert is buried deeply just to the left of the median.

And farther back, the wooden privacy fence separates Pearl Alley and this urban oblivion from the blunt end of Walhalla Ravine and its creek trickling through verdant slopes.
In this reverse view, looking west (downstream), the main grate is at the far end of the parking lot, on the edge of High Street. I’m standing atop the creek, which flows under this side of the median.

On the far side of High is a gravel parking area. In the distance, the tall grey trees are sycamores. More below on these two subjects.

To the left (south) is a recent low-rise apartment building, and to the right (north) an oriental food establishment. Keep these landmarks in mind for orientation.

Pray, Live, Die…Wait…

This endangered historic building at 3100 North High Street has sat on the high ground to the north of Walhalla Ravine for about 180 years. A graveyard used to be behind it…and some of its inhabitants are probably still there.

(Here’s a historical photo of about the same angle, though a small image.)

This was Clinton Chapel. An entry in Shirley Hyatt’s Clintonville History reports:

“When Thomas Bull, one of Clintonville’s early settlers, died in 1823, he left land in his will to build a church for the members, and that church was erected 15 years later at 3100 North High Street near Walhalla Road & High Street. Southwick Good Fortkamp Funeral Chapel occupies that building today [or did].

“The church membership decided in 1881 to sell the chapel and move the church to the thriving community of North Columbus, and they built a new church on East Tompkins.”

In another entry:

“Alonson Bull and his brother Jason were abolitionists, Jason serving as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad from Clinton Chapel at 3100 North High Street…

“Edward L. Sebring (1839?-1905) worked with Jason Bull to aid fugitive slaves escaping to freedom in Canada from Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, to the next safe station.”

In yet another entry:

“Mathias Armbruster was born in Wurtenburg Germany in 1839 and came to the U.S.A. in 1858. He operated Armbruster Scenic Studios in Columbus—he painted scenic theatrical stage sets.

“Armbruster purchased the area around what is now known as Walhalla Ravine, and converted Clinton Chapel at 3100 North High Street into his private residence…[later the] Southwick-Good-Fortkamp funeral home…

“Mathias eventually sold most of the acreage to a real estate developer, and helped name the streets after his beloved Wagner Ring Operas. Mathias died in Columbus in 1920.”

Clintonville History has three photos of and from the house, including unfilled Walhalla Ravine. (Unfortunately, they’re small, but I think the author wants you to buy her book.)

Preservationists are worried about the fate of this site. From an August 2018 Urban Ohio forum:

“A children’s day-care center is being proposed for a shuttered Clintonville funeral home that preservation groups had listed as an endangered historic site.  Plans for the former Southwick-Good & Fortkamp Funeral Chapel, 3100 N. High Street, will be discussed at the Clintonville Area Commission meeting…

“Mark Smith of CD Advisors, which represents the day-care operators, said the building would be renovated, but the historic structure would not be altered. … He said there is a lot of demand for a day care in the Clintonville area.  Nearby residents were worried that apartments or condominiums would be built on the site near Walhalla Ravine.

“The building contains the Clinton Chapel, which dates to 1838 and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  In October 2017, Preservation Ohio listed the Clinton Chapel as among its most endangered sites in Ohio.  The Columbus Landmarks Foundation also put the building on its most endangered list last year.”

The forum also includes a link to a Dispatch article with a nice interior photo over the lobby.

I haven’t found a follow-up article, but the on-site “for sale” sign states the 1.345 acre property has been sold.

(Here’s a historical photo from a similar perspective – though from the chapel house’s rooftop – of the unfilled ravine…one of those small images.)

A Short Walk into Walhalla

A little “WATER” cover in the pavement is an accurate label for what flows alongside most of Walhalla Road in Walhalla Ravine. Looking east, the one-way street ends here anonymously at High, between the funeral home and food market.

I’m betting the road was cut into the ravine’s hillside behind the funeral home (which exposed this shale) to allow the road to climb out of the ravine. The gully veers a little southward, where its stream heads to the fill next to High Street.

Close to the exit of the ravine and across from the shale bank is an almost nondescript ‘contemporary’ house, that last house in paradise. But if you’re in a wonderful natural area – even if only one lot away from High Street – you don’t need no stylin.’

The creek flows to the south (left) of this house and into the culvert under the fence along Pearl Alley…until it empties into the Olentangy roughly 1,500 feet away.
Farther into the ravine, looking east, green paint identifies a manhole cover for the sewer line under the road. The creek is pinched in on the north (left), and a house is on the right. Weber Road skirts the edge atop the bluff ahead on the right.
Turned around to look west and returning to High Street, in this view Walhalla’s creek goes through a halfway attractive newer culvert, under its road, to switch to the south side of the road for the last time in the ravine.

I don’t know if the stream that flows through Walhalla Ravine and beside Walhalla Road is named “Walhalla” – or if it is a stream, run, creek, fork, branch, or whatever – so I’ll just refer to it as ‘Walhalla creek,’ sans capitalization of the second word.

(I believe East North Broadway was formerly just Broadway, but when the area was annexed into Columbus, it was overly renamed to avoid confusion with downtown’s Broad Street.)

Crossing Over

Again, that historical photo of High Street shows a trolley or interurban line running down the center of a divided High Street with a power line on both sides of the tracks. These manhole covers may show where those wires were (thankfully) buried where they stood. (If only ALL overhead wires were buried…grrr.)

Another manhole cover is closer in my photo, in the concrete pad for a bus stop – yet another utility only hinted at from above. But behind us…

…Looking west yet again: beyond a narrow street-side gravel parking area is another manhole – but projecting out of the slope in the fill in the center of the photo.

This is typical when a sewer line runs through a lowland, but is inexplicable here…except as an access to the covered-over culvert of Walhalla creek, where additional fill is anticipated. (Yay! Make flat Columbus more flat!)

In the distance is the unfilled continuation of the ravine, with brick buildings visible on its north (right) side.

Living in the Dry Ravine

That dark green paint is probably “Hunter Green,” named after Chillicothe’s Dard Hunter I, who popularized that shade during the Arts & Crafts movement of the first part of the 20th century.

The Tudor Re-Re-Revival style was popular when these were built.
The quad on the left attempts to inject some International styling to the neighborhood with a large cubist foyer / muzzle / schnoz.
Twins, but for a desperate attempt at differentiation.
Meanwhile, back at the poor smothered stream in the middle of this amphitheatered ravine of false-medieval buildings: looking east again, with the cul-de-sac and low-rise apartments in the background. This manhole cover in a streetside lawn is probably an access to the tubed creek underneath it.
A lightly styled storm sewer drain cover hints at when the neighborhood was built: 1922.
And beside that drain, in the wide level forelawn, is another manhole, again probably to the buried stream. Looking east, the culvert is now on the north (left) side of the street.

(Unless someone uses this grass as a golf course, football pitch, or volleyball court, it’s a total waste of a tortured monoculture.)
West Tulane is the road / street that occupies Walhalla Ravine west of High Street. An unrecognizable northern Neil Avenue swerves into it and then out again in a double intersection.
One of the few single houses on the street is an early split-level, probably dating between 1947 and 1963 (the “Early Postwar” period).

And this is a good split level – a “tri-level,” the Best New House Type of the 20th Century. (Those bi-levels are just stupid, and are the Worst New House Type of the 20th Century.)
West Tulane is rudely cut off by a fence and dumpster corral on the northern edge of Olentangy Village, where the street continues as Sunset Drive. Note three drain covers diagonally across the intersection of Tulane with the bisecting alley.
Within: nothing to write home about. Like this middle one, each shallow drain is a crumbling concrete trough that halfheartedly directs water, with flakes of concrete and asphalt rapids.
Looking back, northeast from the Village’s fence, are the same three drain covers.

(In the background is a FedEx man looking to deliver to “Tony Stank.” But he happens to be parked in Walhalla, so he really should be asking for Thor…before Loki slinks out of a drain hole and complicates matters…)

Into THE Village

…We have a pre-cast concrete drain with cast-in-place rungs leading down to a maybe 4′ pre-cast concrete culvert pipe. Boring and sanitized, like the garages. No brick! No rocks! No alligators! Meh.

I think there’s a more subtle culvert opening in the lower left. I doubt they would have built this drain over, and saddling directly into, Walhalla creek: side feeds are usually routed indirectly from the side. But they may have been more direct here, and so Walhalla creek may flow right through this pit.
Looking the opposite way: southwest towards the Olentangy River (and that radio antenna), and the gravel path from the Village to the recreational trail along the river.

From Ravine into River

Turning around and looking downstream from the bridge, one of several sewer line crossings of the river create a low-head dam. These are deceptively dangerous to swimmers and boaters, as they will twirl you vertically below them like an evil mini surfing wave, so that it takes hours to finally recover your dead body…thus the red warning sign.

But what’s that dark opening in the center, like a portal to the hall of the dead?…
…It’s Walhalla, finally coming to light after being buried since Pearl Alley and High Street! The battered concrete outlet releases the stream that starts east of Indianola Avenue near Studio 35.
…about possible sanitary sewer overflow during heavy rain or meltwater. But fortunately, the Solution to Pollution is Dilution – especially if it’s strong enough to chew away poured concrete and push debris big enough to bend rebar.
But the Oldandgrungy…er, Olentangy…is placid for now, and hosts geese below the dam and bridge.
What’s in the tunnel / culvert / gateway to / exit from Walhalla? Only future explorations will confirm if there be dragons…or armored winged women. Bring your ale and mead, for now we feast to celebrate our glorious death!

Soon, part two: From High to Indianola – Walhalla in the open, a murdering madman’s mansion, a trio of deer and of owlets and of shales, pricey properties, white bluebells, a respite from FLATlumbus, “what’s under THAT manhole?”…and more!

Ikke verdens ende…

Published by:

Kevin B. Coleman

Pre/historian, architectural historian, re-enactor, guide, reporter, speaker, writer, gardener, craftsperson, husbandman, et al., who can work in stone (flint knapping, flintlock, silicon chip) among other things and who is determined to use my knowledge, wisdom, and personal survival to help the greater good. At least, my cats and dog here in semi-rural Ohio tell me that.

Categories Cultural Geography, Historic Architecture, Historic Preservation1 Comment

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