Henry J. Karg: A Prolific Builder Who Called Westerville Home (his career in words and pictures)

NOTE: This blog contains quite a few pictures so give it several minutes to download. The pictures download haphazardly.

For the first couple months of 2019, I spent afternoons at the microfilm reader at Otterbein University’s library perusing old editions of the Westerville’s newspaper, the Public Opinion. My goal was to discover other Westerville structures, if any, designed circa 1890-1923 by renowned Columbus architects Joseph Yost & Frank Packard (in addition to those already known such as Vine Street School, the Hotel Holmes, Otterbein’s Association Building). While I did uncover a Packard-designed bronze plaque commemorating composer Benjamin Hanby (“Up On the Housetop” and more), the big surprise was a name that kept popping up in local construction articles. The first mention of “contractor Karg” appeared in the Public Opinion on June 8, 1905 with the announcement that the contract for construction of the First National Bank building had been given to Henry Karg and that “Mr. Karg and family will make their home in Westerville.”

Initially, I thought the stack of Public Opinion articles being accumulated would be confined to a Henry Karg construction career in Westerville. However, that changed with this incidental comment made at the end of a November 2, 1911 announcement regarding Karg’s soon-to-open Westerville Garage: “Mr. Karg has just been successful in securing a $90,000 contract for a new high school building to be erected at Washington Court House. His ability to handle such a contract has been ably demonstrated in the past, and this fact is the secret of his success as a contractor.” Research performed after reading that quote turned up much more.

Henry J. Karg (born 1861) and wife Mary Violet Flick Karg (born 1866) were originally from just north of Galion in the unincorporated no-traffic-light crossroads of Leesville in Crawford County. Later, the Kargs and their five children moved one county north to Fostoria where they resided from 1891 to 1904. The city directory lists Karg as a stone contractor with a third and final Fostoria residence at 922 North Main Street, a house that still stands today though in need of repair. It was likely built by Karg since it has very simple, practical architecture and looks spacious enough for a large family.

As mentioned, in 1905 the Kargs arrived in Westerville at which time Henry constructed the First National Bank/Bale & Walker Hardware building at the northeast corner of State and College (now Westerville Antiques + Revamped Decor). While scanning old campus publications the Record and the Aegis for the Otterbein Digital Commons, I kept seeing references to Otterbein alumni living and working in Fostoria. Fostoria was the home of Fostoria Academy, a partnership between the community and the United Brethren Church. At least 6 Academy faculty and the Academy principal were Otterbein alumni including Allen George Crouse whose father Isaac was instrumental in having the academy located in Fostoria. The superintendent of schools and the pastor of the United Brethren Church in Fostoria were also Otterbein alumni. While it is yet to be discovered whether the 5 Karg children attended the academy, the siblings of their mother indeed did. It’s likely the Otterbein faculty influenced decisions by Mary’s siblings to attend and graduate from Otterbein between 1891 and 1906 (Alexander ’94, Bertha ’98, Carlton ’06; Alexander later became Historian and Director of Archives for the state of New York from 1923-1939). Due to continued financial difficulties and a devastating fire in 1904, Fostoria Academy closed. It seems logical that these Otterbein/United Brethren associations influenced the Karg family’s relocation to Westerville in 1905. Incidentally, Allen George Crouse retired to Westerville and built a house at 48 West College Avenue (the existing house on the lot was moved). His wife’s father previously operated an iron foundry at the rear of the lot which was a station on the Underground Railroad. Allen’s wife Inez Alexander Crouse, Otterbein Class of 1872, lived to be 102. Per her obituary, she lived all but her last 102 years at 48 West College Avenue and in a log cabin across the street prior to that. Today the house is owned and occupied by Zeta Phi Fraternity.

In Westerville, the Kargs resided at 201 South State Street which still stands today at the northwest corner of State and Glenwood. The property included a farm stretching west toward Otterbein Cemetery. Henry built a pond at the back of the farm which is likely where Hannah Mayne Park is today. Perhaps the very first picture of this blog is one of Henry with some type of farm crop in his hand and on the chair beside him. The photo is courtesy of First Presbyterian Church which he built. The Franklin County Auditor website lists a construction year of 1900 for the house which is a default year used when the actual year is unknown. The house fits the time period, and it was likely built by Karg upon his 1905 arrival since it has six bedrooms. The Kargs, their five children, and Mrs. Karg’s sister and brother all lived in the house at the same time per census records.

During the period Karg was building in Westerville, all five children attended Otterbein with the four daughters graduating. Rollin Karg attended one year including playing fullback on the football team. After that, he joined his father’s construction business. Washington Court House High School appears to have been the first “Karg and Son” project. Henry Karg was on City Council in 1910. Unfortunately in that same year wife Mary passed away after many months of illness with interment at Otterbein Cemetery. The Public Opinion wrote “Mrs. Karg was noted for the sterling qualities of mind and heart and had a very wide circle of friends.”

In declining health, Henry begin spending winters in Florida around 1915, and returning to Westerville in summer. Son Rollin took over his father’s concrete business located at the railroad tracks and formed The Karg & Smith Company, “Builders’ Supplies, Concrete and Cement Work.” The cement factory address was listed as 147 East Lincoln which was not far from Rollin’s house (still standing at 26 North Vine Street beside Vine Street School). Per the July 20, 1933 edition of the Public Opinion, Karg and Smith was low bidder on the cement work for the new municipal building and Rollin was named superintendent of construction. After this blog was published, it was discovered that Karg and Smith were awarded the contract for the foundation of King Hall, an Otterbein University men’s dormitory built in 1926 that still houses students today.

The abstract for 201 South State Street shows Rollin selling the house and farm in 1915 to Ernest Cherrington, editor of The American Issue which was the nationally-distributed publication of the Anti-Saloon League. The transaction also appeared in the May 8, 1915 edition of The Columbus Dispatch. Cherrington soon announced the farm would be developed as housing lining a boulevard named Glenwood. By 1917 eight houses had been constructed. The Karg house sold to brothers Clarence, Clifford, and William Johnson. William, known as “Pussyfoot” Johnson, travelled extensively championing the Prohibition movement for the Anti-Saloon League (a Wikipedia page defines the nickname and more).

On December 13, 1923 the Public Opinion announced the passing of Henry Karg in Orlando, Florida, with interment at Otterbein Cemetery. Coincidentally, Frank Packard died unexpectedly two months earlier in October and Joseph Yost died one month earlier in November.

In my opinion, the highlights of Henry Karg’s contracting career are at least 10 buildings here in Westerville, 9 high schools, 2 Andrew-Carnegie funded libraries, 3 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and 6 structures credited to the partnership of Yost & Packard or Packard himself post the partnership. In 1898, Yost & Packard produced a hardbound promotional publication listing everything they had designed to date. There are many ads in the book of building material suppliers including one for “H. Karg, General Contractor and Builder. Agent for all Kinds of Stone.” The only known Karg build for these architects prior to 1898 was First Presbyterian Church in Urbana. It’s a good guess there are more to discover!

Henry Karg in Westerville

  • 1905: First National Bank/Bale & Walker Hardware (Public Opinion 6/8/1905). The original design called for two storefronts that would house the bank and the hardware store. In 1909 (Public Opinion 4/8/1909) a one-story addition was constructed at the rear with two storefronts facing East College one of which would house the Post Office. The architect for the entire structure remains unknown. It’s likely that Karg built the addition. Today, the State Street front houses Westerville Antiques + Rustic Revamp and the East College addition houses My Cousin’s Cottage.
  • 1906: Phillip G. Cochran Memorial Hall, Otterbein University (Public Opinion 3/8/1906). This was the first of four buildings, all constructed by Karg, during a period referred to by the Otterbein Aegis as a “building boom.” Its construction was funded by Mrs. P.G. Cochran who was referred to in the March 8, 1906, edition of the Public Opinion as “one of the most noted and philanthropic women in the United Brethren connection.” Cochran, the largest of Henry’s Westerville builds, no longer stands as it was a victim of a major fire in 1975. The Cochran name survives in the form of an alley next to the former building site, now a greenfield, which runs from Grove Street to Church of the Messiah.
  • 1908: Carnegie Library, Otterbein University (Public Opinion 7/25/1907). In April 1905 the Public Opinion proclaimed “Iron Master Makes Gift of $20,000.” Two years later Otterbein had raised the required matching amount and announced that Karg would build a library designed by Frank Packard, one of eight Carnegie-funded libraries designed by him in Ohio. The ceremonial key to the building was presented to the College by Edgar L. Weinland, Otterbein Class of 1891, who was the longest serving Trustee at sixty years in Otterbein history. His house south of the Ohio State campus was designed by Packard, and the Weinland Park neighborhood in the Short North is named in honor of his service to the city of Columbus. Weinland Park Elementary School also carries his name. Today the former Carnegie Library at College and Grove houses the Office of Admission and is renamed Clippinger Hall in honor of Dr. Walter G. Clippinger, longest serving Otterbein president at thirty years. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places 2/5/2021.
  • 1908: Vine Street School (known as Emerson today) addition (Public Opinion 4/9/1908). Built in 1896 and designed by Yost & Packard, Vine Street School looked to expand by 1908. Frank Packard was selected as architect for a two-story four-classroom addition with basement restrooms and a requirement to be ready by the start of the school year. On April 2, the Public Opinion announced “Architect Packard Plans to Push the Work With All Possible Speed.” Karg met the challenge and the new addition opened Monday, September 7. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1909: Lambert Memorial Music and Art Hall, Otterbein University (Public Opinion 3/4/1909). Construction began in March 1909, and Karg promised to have this four-story structure ready by Fall Term. In April, the Otterbein Aegis reported that “Mr. Karg, the contractor, is leaving no stone unturned in his attempt to get the building completed by September first…”. My brother and I, Otterbein students, painted the stairways in Lambert over Christmas break 1971. My impression was the building had more stairways than teaching space. Oil-based paint. UGH. Lambert has since been demolished and is now a parking lot at the SE corner of College and Grove.
  • 1909: Heating plant, Otterbein University (Public Opinion 3/18/1909). This was located on the east side of long-vacated Maple Street which ran from Main to Park between today’s Otterbein science building and King Hall and formed a western backdrop for the athletic field. A few small houses lined the street including one purchased for $1.00 in the early 1950’s by long time Historical Society members Bert and Jane Horn and moved to 112 North West Street where a two-story addition was constructed at the rear. In 1944, the heating plant’s steel smokestack was replaced by a 100 foot brick smoke stack that dwarfed the original, but was short-lived. In 1958, Westerville celebrated its Centennial the week of August 16-23. According to Otterbein’s Towers Magazine, “The dynamiting of the old heating plant smokestack was the spectacular event on Thursday evening, August 21.” The rest of the plant was demolished as well and today is green space.
  • 1911: Bank of Westerville (Public Opinion 7/21/1910). Now occupied by Middlefield Banking Company, this building was designed by the very significant Columbus architectural firm of Richards, McCarty & Bulford. Both Clarence Richards and Joel McCarty got their start with Yost & Packard. McCarty was a nephew of Joseph Yost. Some of their major designs in Central Ohio were the Athletic Club of Columbus, Columbus Museum of Art, Grant Hospital, downtown Lazarus, and the Ohio School for the Deaf. In the mid-1930’s, the front was significantly altered by new occupant Citizens Bank and bears no resemblance to its original design.
  • 1911: Westerville Garage, (Public Opinion 1/4/1912). “Building Put Up by H. Karg Especially for Automobile People” read the Public Opinion headline announcing the New Year’s Day 1912 grand opening of the Westerville Garage. This was the first auto dealership/garage in Westerville. Karg did not retain ownership for long. The business was listed for sale in the June 10, 1913 edition of the Columbus Dispatch. A 1915 ad listed sales of Buicks and Dorts with Percy Taylor as proprietor. Claire D. Wilkin moved his automobile business here in 1931. On June 15, 1966, Wilkin Motor Sales was destroyed by fire. Rebuilt, today 31 East Main Street houses Westerville Automotive.
  • 1912/13: First Presbyterian Church (Public Opinion 7/11/1912). Due to First Presbyterian member Thomas Holmes association with architects Yost & Packard, it was thought that perhaps the church was designed by Frank Packard. But a search through various archival sources by current church member Jim Hines yielded the name of the architect (recorded on a handwritten document) plus a photograph of Henry Karg. Architect E.E. Pruitt of Columbus was mainly a designer of churches both in the area as well as other parts of Ohio.
  • Unknown Construction Year: a structure south of East Broadway and along the former railroad tracks (Public Opinion 7/29/1915). McCann-Shaw Glass Works purchased the building from a prior owner in 1915 and constructed an addition to the west. The company supplied convex glass to Culver Art and Frame.
  • Unknown Construction Year: cement block factory (Public Opinion 4/27/1911). Per the Public Opinion article, “Contractor Henry Karg has had a tight board fence built around the yard of his cement block factory.” The factory was located at the railroad tracks between East Lincoln and East Broadway.

Henry Karg in Ohio

  • 1893: First Presbyterian Church, Urbana (Champaign County). Designed by Yost & Packard, the building retains its original use. I owe this Karg find to the pandemic of forgettable 2020. I wanted to take a trip to Miami County via Rt 36 through Urbana and knew I would need a pit stop from morning coffee about the time I hit that town. Since fast food restaurant restrooms were closed everywhere, I looked at the Champaign County Library website to see if it was open. That’s my go-to restroom when I’m in the area. Although the library was closed which thus postponed the trip until more successful times, I looked around the website and found digitized Urbana newspapers. A Google search of Yost & Packard who left a design legacy in that city turned up Henry Karg as the builder of the church. What a bonus surprise!!! Urbana Citizen and Gazette and Champaign Republican 12/21/1893
  • 1895: Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington Court House (Fayette County). According to historical documentation at the local library, “Its stately stone edifice was the scene of many community activities, such as Washington Court House Baccalaureate and Commencement services and lyceum programs, until it was destroyed by fire on January 14, 1959.” Cleveland architect R.S. Badgley said “It is the handsomest I ever built.” Washington Court House Record Herald 10/23/1961
  • 1897: City Hall, Lancaster (Fairfield County). This stone building is stunning in and of itself, but it’s even more stunning in proportion to the other structures in downtown Lancaster. The four clock dials in the tower were originally illuminated by gaslight and wound once per week by hand. Lancaster Eagle-Gazette 10/19/1974
  • 1899-1904: Collingwood Avenue Presbyterian Church, Toledo (Lucas County). This large stone building was designed by Yost & Packard and was constructed in phases over a period of five years. It’s located in Toledo’s historic West End. “Avenue” has been dropped from the church name. The Columbus Dispatch 5/10/1899
  • Circa 1904: residence for attorney Thomas W. Marchant, Washington Court House. The house and carriage house still stand and are occupied by Roberts Funeral Home. The stucco has been sided, but it appears the remainder of the structure has not been altered much. The house was designed by Frank Packard in Craftsman-style which was a favorite of the architect. The construction year could not be identified with resources available at the Washington CH Carnegie Public Library which, coincidentally, was also designed by Frank Packard. A Google search yielded a 1904 Craftsman publication that featured the house. The Record Herald 2/2/1959
  • 1907: High School, Nelsonville (Athens County). This building was recently converted to affordable housing units known as Nelsonville School Commons. The Engineering Record, Building Record and Sanitary Engineer 7/13/1907
  • 1910: Lancaster Post Office. This downtown building retains its original use and is just steps from the Karg-built City Hall. The Columbus Dispatch 12/19/1909
  • 1910: Alumni Library, Miami University, Oxford (Butler County). Designed by Frank Packard (Yost had relocated his practice to New York City by then), this Andrew Carnegie-funded library is now home to the Department of Architecture and Interior Design. The Columbus Dispatch 5/8/1910
  • 1910: High School, West Alexandria (Preble County). This building is abandoned. Karg’s name is listed among others in the front entryway. A rendering of the proposed building appears in the July 31, 1910 edition of The Columbus Dispatch.
  • 1911/12: Fairfield National Bank, Lancaster. Located in the heart of downtown, the Fairfield National Bank is still housed here. The Bricklayer, Mason and Plasterer Vol 14-15 1911-12
  • 1912: High School, Martinsville (Clinton County). Per the Clinton County History Center archives, students were so proud of their newly opened school that they requested money given annually by teachers for Christmas treats be used instead to buy pictures for the classrooms. This building was closed in 1963 and has been demolished. Clinton County Democrat 3/14/1912
  • 1912: High School, Wilmington (Clinton County). This building was demolished in 1994. The Columbus Dispatch 12/11/1910
  • 1913: High School, Bowling Green (Wood County). This building was demolished in 2012. The American Contractor Jan-Mar 1913
  • 1913: High School, Washington Courthouse. This building is now subsidized housing. I was thrilled to gain access by assisting a resident leaving the building with a walker in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The interior hallways and stairways are original. Karg’s name is listed among others in the front entryway. Washington Daily Herald 1/23/1914
  • 1914: High School, Piqua (Miami County). A rendering of the proposed building appears in the September 1, 1912 edition of The Columbus Dispatch. This building has been converted to senior housing and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1914: High School/Grade School, Hebron (Licking County). This building is still in use as an elementary school. A November 2019 bond issue to replace it failed. The Columbus Dispatch 8/3/1913
  • 1914: High School, Norwood (Hamilton County). Norwood Middle School is housed in this building today. The Columbus Dispatch 10/2/1910

Note: (1) The pictures below do not follow the order in which they are listed above. That’s just a personal preference. (2) Portions of this blog appeared in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of the Westerville Historical Society’s newsletter.

Published 11/21/2020 by Don Foster. donfoster73@gmail.com

Henry J. Karg, 1861 – 1923
First Westerville build, 1905: Bale & Walker Hardware on the left and First National Bank on the right.
Interior when known as Walker & Hanover Hardware.
Picture from Westerville Public Library collection.
This is from a scrapbook of 1916 donated to the Otterbein University Archives. I was amused by the fact a student organization got away with pulling a stunt like this…so I added it here.
And the building today.
Phillip G. Cochran Memorial Hall at N Grove and W Home on the Otterbein Campus. Razed after a major fire in 1977. Now open space across the street from Mayne Hall.
Designed by renowned Columbus architect Frank Packard. Original blueprint in the Otterbein University Archives.
Built 1908 on NE corner of College and Grove. Today the former Carnegie Library houses the Otterbein University Office of Admission and has been renamed Clippinger Hall. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built 1909 on SE corner of College and Grove. Now a parking lot north of Cowan Hall on the Otterbein University campus.
Otterbein University heating plant built in 1909 at 16 W Maple St. The structure and the street no longer exist. Now open space in front of King Hall and student apartments.
Maple St was just to the left of the former Alumni Gymnasium (now Battelle Hall) which is the large building in the foreground. It ran north/south between Main and Park Streets. The heating plant was in the open space to the left of the tennis courts which are now gone.
The Gateway was reconstructed in recent years for handicap accessibility. Eliminates the possibility of missteps with the annual Commencement March from the Towers Hall lawn to the Rike Physical Education/Recreation Center!!
This is how the building currently occupied by Middlefield Banking Company used to look before it was modernized in the 1930’s (as per the picture above it). Today this modernization would be considered a remuddling.
First Presbyterian Church, Westerville, as it appears today.
The first new car dealership in Westerville was opened by Henry Karg. The occupants of the vehicle above are unknown. Photo is from the archives of the Westerville History Center & Museum.
After the fire, Karg’s Westerville Garage was replaced by the above structure which is occupied today by Westerville Automotive.
Original auditorium in Lancaster City Hall.
Lancaster City Hall as it appears today.
The former Nelsonville High School building today houses apartments and is renamed Nelsonville Commons.
Grace Methodist Episcopal Church was destroyed by fire. It was replaced on the same site.
The Columbus Dispatch 12/6/1908
The Columbus Dispatch 5/8/1910
The former Frank Packard-designed Andrew Carnegie-funded library at Miami University. Now the Department of Architecture and Interior Design.
The Columbus Dispatch 12/15/1912
Bowling Green High School was demolished in 2012.
Urbana Citizen and Gazette and Champaign Republican 12/21/1893.
First Presbyterian Church above and below, Urbana, as it appears today. Designed by Joseph Yost and Frank Packard of Yost & Packard, partners from 1892-1899.
Norwood High School, above and below, which today houses a middle school.
Hebron School
Today, the school in Hebron is still in use…as an elementary school and part of Lakewood Local Schools (Licking County). Not for long though as described below.
Collingwood Presbyterian Church, Toledo, as it appears today. “Avenue” has been dropped from the name. Too bright the day I took this picture.
The Karg family home at 201 S State St, Westerville, as it appears today. It was likely built by Henry upon moving to town from Fostoria in 1905.
The Karg house and farm behind it were sold to Ernest Cherrington, editor of publications for the Anti-Saloon League, per The Columbus Dispatch of 5/8/1915. He retained the farmland for development and sold the house to the Johnson brothers. “Pussyfoot” Johnson was a prohibition advocate who represented the Anti-Saloon League and toured internationally (see Wikipedia).
The Karg family home at 922 N Main St, Fostoria, as it appears today. It was likely built by Henry.
Birthplace of Henry and Mary Flick Karg just north of Bucyrus. Leesville is mostly abandoned, as show below, with the exception of a few houses and a quaint frame church the Kargs might have attended.
Son Rollin Orestes attended Otterbein University for one year and was a member of the football team. He then joined his father in the construction business and later started his own firm, The Karg and Smith Company. The two pictures above are his house as it appears today at 26 N Vine St which stands beside the Vine Street School building to which his father constructed a 2 story addition at the rear. He and his dad likely built the house.
Karg and Smith built the concrete foundation/basement of Otterbein University’s King Hall pictured above and below. Still in use today. Pictures are from the OU Archives. Article is from The Tan and Cardinal student newspaper of 4/13/1926.
All four Karg daughters graduated from Otterbein University. Only Una remained in Westerville, and she is buried at Otterbein Cemetery. I have been unable so far to locate a picture of Violet.
Public Opinion 6/2/1910
Otterbein Cemetery, Westerville
While scanning The Otterbein Review of 5/15/1911 for the Otterbein Archives, I noticed this reference to “the Misses Karg” in the Locals column. It lead to finding a descendant of Henry Karg living in Ohio. Previously, I had made contact with two descendants living outside the state. Little interest was expressed. On the plus side, though, one can now search “Henry Karg Westerville” on the web and discover this tribute!
Henry Karg’s career was featured in the Winter/Spring 2020 newsletter of the Westerville Historical Society.

Unknown to me until June 2021, there is an alley bordering the Temperance Row Historic District (placed on the National Register of Historic Places) in the Uptown area that is named after the Karg family. Thank you to former Westerville resident Colleen Kasson for informing me of this. The alley has no street sign at either end unlike some of the alleys in the Uptown area. The City was asked to place signs there to honor a major contributor to Westerville construction history who currently has no recognition at all…and because this alley is part of a National Register designation. In May 2022, the City indeed erected signs! Happy and satisfying ending!

Fall 2022 newsletter of the Westerville Historical Society.


  1. Colleen says:

    Really interesting information here. What a chore you and your brother had in painting the stairways of Lambert Hall. I didn’t know the Horn family house history. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erin Johnson says:

    What a great detail you’ve included. Thank you for teaching about this important Westerville family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comments, Erin! Much appreciated!!

      Liked by 1 person

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