Among the early families to settle on the land between the rivers that later became known as Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff, we find Arthur Markel, his wife Laura and their four children. Arthur’s grandfather, Jacob, had come to Ohio even before statehood and was noted as a builder of covered bridges with bowstring trusses…some of which may still be standing today.
Arthur began his business career as a bookkeeper, then accountant, then general manager of several firms before finally becoming active in real estate and insurance. In 1910, Arthur was appointed as village appraiser and it is interesting to note that vacant land on the bluff was valued at $50 – $75 a front foot, while lots north of First Avenue were $10 – $15 a front foot. Think for just a moment what property values are in the same area these days.
At the time the Markel’s settled here, there were about 300 families living a rather rural life. Most of the streets were mud, cinder or gravel except for First Avenue which was paved to accommodate the street car tracks that provided transportation to downtown Columbus. Residents had access to electricity, but water and sewer facilities were very limited and Arthur soon joined forces with some of the other leading families to improve their access to these necessities and also to secure street improvements.
He was instrumental in organizing the first volunteer fire department with hand drawn equipment that was stationed near his home on the SW corner of First and Elmwood Avenues. During his ten-year tenure as a member and president of the school board, both Edison Elementary and the high school were built.
Our greatest legacy from this energetic man is that he was one of the early instigators to organize Sunday School classes and later our church. His son, Lyman, claims that Arthur was the one whose idea it was to poll every resident to learn what denomination they preferred. When the Sunday School sessions proved to be so popular that the classrooms overflowed, some of the classes were moved to the Markel’s backyard and front porch. He was an enthusiastic member of the committee that met with Dr. Washington Gladden and helped to found Grandview Heights Congregational Church.
For many years he served as Sunday School Superintendent and when we began to outgrow the original church, overflow classes again sometimes met in his backyard. Both of his sons Lyman and Lawrence, answered their country’s call in World War I. Their names are to be found on the brass plaque near the east entrance to Lincoln Road Chapel where all those who served are honored.
For me, one of the most interesting facts about Arthur Markel is that his Sunday school class comprised of sophomore and junior boys was charged with the task of planning and carrying out the ground breaking ceremony for the new church on Cambridge Boulevard.
Obviously under his tutelage, they must have been a highly motivated and extremely well disciplined group of teenagers to have been given such an important assignment. January 24, 1924, dawned bright and crisp. With the temperature below zero, the boys built a fire to thaw the frozen ground so that a spadesful of earth could be turned. A group of around seventy-five hardy souls including representatives of all organizations of the church, Sunday School and affiliated community activities took part in the ceremony.
Arthur Markel died in 1964 after living a very full 95 years. He was a religious man, a poet, a political mover and a successful business and family man. The community and especially our church are richer because of his presence and his influence on the lives of those he helped to mold.
At age 90 he wrote, “The influence of the Church and general good character of the residents was such that we got along together in unity.” Thank you, Arthur Markel, for the part you played in our early history.