King and Ben Thompson, founders of Upper Arlington, were born in Georgetown, Ohio. Ben moved to Mansfield and worked in the hardware business, and later attended the College of Engineering at Ohio State. King moved to Delaware to attend Ohio Wesleyan University and later attended law school at Ohio State. While at Ohio State, he recognized the potential of the residential areas north and east of the university and launched his real estate career by developing many neighborhoods in this area. In 1907, Ben joined King in the real estate business.
In 1913, Ben and King purchased 840 acres of land from James Terrell Miller to develop an “ideal residential community for Columbus.” The land appealed to the Thompsons as a residential site because of its location on high ground, its proximity to both downtown Columbus and The Ohio State University campus, and its position upwind from larger cities. The beautiful land that was once a “well-managed, immaculately kept, working farm” was subdivided into 2500 lots. In 1914 the King Thompson Company was formed to sell this new community, dubbed the Country Club District, to the public.
The Country Club District was demarcated by Fifth Avenue on the south, North Star Avenue on the east, Lane Avenue on the north, and on the west by Dublin Boulevard and a dam on the Scioto River. The District, modeled after a similar community that they had visited in Kansas City, would later be named Upper Arlington, but was initially called the Country Club District due to its closeness to the Arlington Country Club, the Columbus Gun Club, and a planned eighteen-hole golf course, later called the Scioto Country Club. The District was to be under one development plan and one management, for “protection against the injurious effects of adjoining property.” *
The plan of development was to be executed on the Miller Farm due to the land’s location, attractiveness, and environment. The Miller Farm was close to Columbus’ city center (“within three and one-half miles, in a straight line, from the business center of Columbus” *), and was on high ground—an aspect especially important in the context of the Ohio Flood of 1913. The city streetcar service, then just reaching the southern end of the district, and other public services were also considered. ** They realized they needed an artery from downtown to the northwest side in order to enhance the accessibility of their new development, and Northwest Boulevard was envisioned.
In 1916, the brothers established the Northwest Boulevard Company to realize the dream of of their new development. The plats of their Northwest Boulevard subdivision were filed in 1916 and 1917, and included properties carved out of the 345 acre Grandview-located Thomas farm. In 1917, the Upper Arlington Company was established, with King Thompson as president and Ben Thompson as vice president, to manage the streets, sewers, and water lines of the Country Club District. Ben continued to serve as the President of the Northwest Boulevard Company, and King served as Secretary. One major role of the company (besides developing the Thomas farm) was to be a liaison with the Franklin County Commissioners. The new subdivision comprised a significant portion of what is now Grandview Heights east of Grandview Avenue, between Goodale and Third.
The photograph above right, captioned "The Skyline of Good Old Columbus Town, Taken from the Knolls of The Northwest Boulevard" appeared on the inside cover of the October 1918 Norwester magazine. It was part of an advertisement for residential lots for sale by the Thompson's company. The advertisement boasted that, "as the crow flies, the Ohio Statehouse was less than two miles away from the development." The image at the top shows the Goodale Blvd. entrance to Northwest Blvd. with the Thomas farmhouse shown on the west side of the road.
* The Country Club District; 1000 Acres Restricted; Upper Arlington (Columbus: King Thompson, 1914)
** Company and Community: The King Thompson Company and Upper Arlington, Ohio, 1913-1929, Research Thesis of Thompson Buck, 2011. Thompson_Buck_thesis_09Dec2011.pdf, http://hdl.handle.net/1811/51165
*** Marjorie Garvin Sayers, ed., History of Upper Arlington: a Suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Upper Arlington Historical Society, 1977.
Below are some examples of the advertisements for the homes in the Northwest Boulevard Company development that appeared in the Norwester magazine.