On the Mallway in old Arlington. (Courtesy of Linda Treglia.)

On the Mallway in old Arlington. (Courtesy of Linda Treglia.)


Are you interested in learning more about Upper Arlington's history? We are publishing a new history book in celebration of Upper Arlington's Centennial in 2018. Order today.

(A Brief) History of Upper Arlington

Upper Arlington was founded by brothers King and Ben Thompson, who purchased the original 840 acres from James T. Miller in 1913. Inspired by the Country Club development in Kansas City, the Thompsons envisioned an idealistic residential community for Columbus. Conveniently situated close to the city of Columbus, two streetcars provided easy access to the location at that time: one running to the intersection of Fifth and Upper Arlington Avenues and the other ending at Fishinger Road, just north of Griggs Dam. The site also enjoyed westerly winds, shielding residents from the fumes of Columbus' factories. 

In early promotional materials, the brothers referred to the area as the Country Club District. By 1917, our community became known as Upper Arlington, because we were located immediately north of a village named Arlington. ("Arlington" later changed its name to Marble Cliff.) 

The Upper Arlington Company, formed by the Thompsons, engaged William Pitkin Jr., a prominent landscape architect from Rochester, New York, to provide the most modern concepts of city planning. The Pitkin Plan encouraged the development of curving streets to follow the land, featuring an abundance of trees, rather than follow the grid-like patterns used in Columbus. This plan gives the historic district of Upper Arlington its distinct appearance. 

Development was temporarily halted in 1916 when 8,000 National Guard troops used the site as a training camp, known as Camp Willis. The troops were preparing to participate in the protection of the U.S./ Mexico border. Much of the initial work of the Upper Arlington Company was destroyed by Camp Willis. Work soon resumed, however, and the village of Upper Arlington was incorporated in March 1918. James T. Miller served as the village's first mayor. 

Adjustments were made to the Pitkin Plan to make way for the Mallway business district in the 1920s. Offices for professionals and retail businesses were built along Upper Arlington Avenue during this period. 

The population of Upper Arlington grew rapidly. Following World War II, many returning servicemen and their families made the suburban areas of Columbus their homes, including Upper Arlington. Steady growth in the coming years raised the population level to over 38,000 by 1970, the City's peak. In 2010, the U.S. Census population estimate was 33,771. 

Over the years, as the population grew, Upper Arlington annexed surrounding land to reach its current boundaries of 9.67 square miles. 

The village became a city in 1941 and was chartered in 1956 with the Council/Manager form of government that exists today.