Research Methods and Data
In this chapter, I describe the different data sources and methods for my examination of the built environment and socio-cultural elements of German Village. I begin with describing the data and methods for my analysis of Physical/Built Environment characteristics.
Physical/Built Environment Characteristics
I utilized rich data available from the Franklin County Auditor to examine changes in housing, real estate, the built environment, and land use over time. The auditor tracks dozens of attributes for each parcel in the county, primarily for taxation purposes. Using tax assessment parcel data and shape files from April 1997 to the present, I used Geographic Information System (GIS) and excel to identify the characteristics of housing, generating descriptive statistics related to transaction price, square footage, owner-occupancy, and property type. The data for this method was obtained from the Franklin County Auditor online data portal, in comma separated values (.csv) and GIS files (.shp, et al.).
I conducted extensive field work in the German Village historic district, recording alterations in the housing stock and commercial structures and taking photographs to illustrate the typologies of structural change. To identify changes in land use, a combination of historic maps and Franklin County Auditor data were used. The historic maps referenced were the Baist Real Estate Atlas (1899, 1910, and 1920) and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (1922). Auditor data available digitally begins in 1997, limiting the GIS mapping of land use change to that year.
Using real estate and rental marketplace data from Zillow, I conducted a content analysis to evaluate how property listings available in January 2017 are discussed in terms home descriptions and amenities.
To evaluate how population composition of German Village and other areas change over time, this research relies on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. I used individual digital census sheets for 1920 and available in the Columbus Metropolitan Library, while all other census data was obtained through Social Explorer, a demographic data visualization and research website to which The Ohio State University maintains an institutional subscription. The primary purpose of using historic 1920 data was to identify household size by totaling the number of individuals listed per housing unit.
In order to understand how German Village household size and demographic composition has changed over time, I also used historical census data for Mohawk Street, a 3,400 ft. road between E. Livingston Avenue and Schiller Park. Mohawk Street was selected for the ease of locating historical records, as Mohawk is a unique street name and the chances of matching results returned from other locations was reduced. Using a segment of road that is entirely contained within German Village also reduced the labor of narrowing down address ranges.
On roads that travel through the neighborhood, the German Village address range would have need to be considered to filter out properties. The census records contain the names of individuals and ages of those who lived at a property, as well as their race and ethnic heritage. They also show whether the residence was owned or rented, and if owned, with or without a mortgage. There is also an indication of whether boarders lived at the residence, and some details of the occupation of the residents.
While Mohawk is just a small portion of the neighborhood, the data obtained from the historical record will be used as an admittedly limited representation of area norms for the time. A larger scan of historical census records was not feasible for the task at hand. A small number of addresses were not listed, and the Columbus City Polk Directory was used to investigate the householder in these instances. Other sources to cross-reference included the 1926 Columbus Phone Book and Franklin County Auditor property records.
Where available, census data from the mid-twentieth century to present was used to demonstrate change over time. Data for the number of households was available beginning in 1960. Unfortunately, the census tracts that comprise the German Village historic district also include other adjacent neighborhoods. This is an unavoidable issue that is acknowledged and illustrated with a geographic representation of the differing boundaries.
I calculated average household sizes by dividing the number of persons in households by the number of households (U. S. Census Bureau, n.d.). For contemporary figures, the average household sizes of census tracts 52 and 57 were average together to produce an average for the area for each selected year. This combination was also used for population and household figures.
I utilized two main sources for this part of the analysis. The first data source is interview data from the German Village Society. The German Village Society has been conducting interviews with neighborhood residents for many years. Using 27 oral history interviews of individuals and couples, this research identifies prominent and recurring themes in the interviews. These interviews were not conducted by me or with my direction or involvement. The participants in the interviews were not told that their responses would be used in this research or to support any particular position. I read and reread the transcripts of 27 interviews to pull out topics about the neighborhood in areas of interest.
The interviews were conducted by German Village Society volunteers in an unstructured format, with different questions for participant in a conversational style. Considering this, the discussion of certain subjects across participants can be expected to be relatively unbiased. However, the interviews tend to touch on topics of significance to the history of the neighborhood, so many participants touch on the same ideas. Furthermore, some volunteers conducted multiple interviews and displayed a preference for certain questions. This inconsistency cannot be mitigated, but it can be acknowledged.
The analysis of the interviews identified statements relating to the following concepts:
•Business composition/Building history Demographic Composition/Race/Class
•Home Size and Style
•Land use balance/Residential-Business Conversions
•Old South End
•Urban Pioneering/Private nature of restoration
The interviews were coded with these key concepts, and tagged statements were aggregated by topic. I analyzed and tabulated statements across interviews related to the same subjects. The goal for coding was to identify common themes and their connotations across the interviewees. The approach was to scan a number of interviews first to identify prominent themes, and then scan the remainder of the interviews to mark each instance of the identified theme throughout. The excerpts for each key term were then collected and organized into an index by subject, with the name of the speaker and frequency of appearance also recorded.
A second source of data for examining the socio-cultural characteristics of German Village is from a survey I conducted from February 2017 to March 2017. I conducted this survey in conjunction with the German Village Society to examine factors that draw residents and business owners to locate in the historic German Village district. The survey also sought to learn how residents and business owners feel about the direction of the neighborhood in terms of balancing retail and residential land uses and historic preservation. The primary goal of the survey was to determine if German Village has certain attributes that make it more attractive to people who have suburban housing history. As part of this larger question, the main objective in this research is to identify and analyze the preferences of the German Village community for housing characteristics and land use patterns, and also how these characteristics might be similar to their previous residence.
The sample surveyed included people who self-selected to take the anonymous, web-based survey. The sample was recruited through a partnership with the German Village Society (GVS), a membership advocacy group for German Village residents and businesses. The GVS leveraged their email contact lists and social media accounts to share the survey link with the target participants, and participants chose to take the survey from the email they received.
The variables of interest were to measure the respondent’s perceptions of life in German Village—positive and negative. Additionally, the research explores a variety of built environment features to understand what features or amenities are desired (see the attached questionnaire). Participants first answered demographic questions (i.e. age, sex, income, housing tenure, etc.). Next, participants indicated their affiliation with the German Village community (i.e. Resident, business owner, or both). Depending on their response, the participant was presented with a unique set of questions. Residents were asked to identify the intersection closest to their home on a map in the survey, followed by questions about when they moved to German Village, where they moved from, and other questions like the size of their current and former residences. Business owners were asked another set of questions, focused on the current climate for commerce and any issues they are having with their location in the neighborhood. Business owners who are also residents were presented with the resident question set as well. Lastly, all participants were asked questions about historic preservation and demographic questions. These questions seek to identify strengths and challenges with the concept of preserving historic structures in a modern and affluent neighborhood.
The survey was designed to take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. It was available online from February 22 to March 14, 2017. Anyone with the link could take the survey, and participants could leave the survey at any time. At the end of the survey, respondents were redirected to an external web page on the German Village Society website with an optional submission form to a raffle for the possibility to win one of three items: (1) two tickets to the 58th Annual German Village Society Haus Und Garten Tour, a total value of $50.00 or (2) a $25 gift card to G. Michael’s, a restaurant in the neighborhood. In order to avoid study bias and to control for threats to internal validity, most answers within each set of questions were randomized in Qualtrics, where appropriate. Answers that offer ordered responses, like levels of satisfaction or percentages, were not be randomized. Survey response data downloaded from the Qualtrics website was exported and analyzed within Microsoft Excel using descriptive statistics, frequency tables, and content analyses. Figure 14 demonstrates the response rates for the different sections of the neighborhood. There were a total of 121 respondents for the survey.
General Archival Analysis and Data Sources
This research includes information and quotes from various media sources, primarily The Columbus Dispatch and Columbus Monthly. These excerpts were located either through references to them in secondary sources or from archival searches through digital and microfilm records. To locate articles relating to German Village, the keyword ‘German Village’ was used in the NewsBank, Inc. database, which offers full text news articles from 1985 to the present. Media was also identified using the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s card catalog index organized by subject. Other materials were provided by the German
Village Society, such as previous academic work on the neighborhood and Society newsletters and photographs obtained through the organization’s website.
When necessary, Franklin County Auditor and Franklin County Recorder data was cross- referenced to ensure that the relocation narrative offered by residents or media sources was correct. For example, it was mentioned in an oral history interview that Fred Holdridge moved to German Village from “out near [Ohio Dominican University]” in a house that “looked exactly like a German Village two-story house.” To identify this, an inspection of Sunbury Road was conducted to identify a brick Italianate structure, and the Auditor’s transfer document was located. This cross-referencing method was used frequently to discover where German Village residents moved from.