The (Verified) Legend of Sullivant's Hill

 (Columbus's Hilltop)


By Author, Inventor, and Upper Columbus Founder, Craig Wise. 


Then                                                   Now 

From 1982 to 1989, I sold new cars about a half-mile away from General Motor's Hilltop factory on Columbus's westside. On a wall in my little sales office, I displayed my antique collection of Columbus area postcards, which sparked many interesting conversations with my older customers. The most intriguing story was with a retired GM secretary, who started working at that factory before it opened in 1945. 

She casually told me that in 1944, President Roosevelt made an offer that General Motors could not refuse. They were to build her massive factory above an obsolete (sealed up)  underground complex that had been the nation's headquarters for weapon development and covert spy agencies for over 70 years (before aircraft). 


30 years later I used these details she either explained or exposed, to outline five ORPHAN novels and 64 comic books: 

  • The underground facility was originally a Civil War munitions factory.

  • The factory was hidden behind Camp Chase, one of the North's largest prisoners of war camps.

  • There was virtually nothing else on the Hill, so Camp Chase provided security.

  • It was built by criminals serving hard labor at the Ohio State Penitentiary.

  • After the Civil War (1865), President Andrew Johnson ordered it sealed up and closed.

  • Ohio-born Generals Ulysses S. Grant Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield ran for public office during the next elections. Grant replaced Johnson as President, Hayes became Ohio's Governor, and Garfield was already the US Congressman from Central Ohio. (FYI: These three Union Generals would also become US presidents, in succession).

  • Within days of Grant's inauguration, these former generals secretly reopened this hidden facility for secret military projects.

  • There were two main reasons why this facility was so strategically important. One was it sat in the mathematical center of the nation's railroad network.   Trains were the quickest form of transportation in the 1800s, so this location offered the shortest average access time to the entire country.

  • Sullivant's Hill was also highly secluded, even though Columbus was only three miles away. This was because Franklinton, the land in-between, would become a lake after severe storms or rapid snow thaws. Early Columbus expanded in every direction but west.

  • However, right after the Civil War,  around a dozen wealthy people began building mansions on the Eastern Ridge of Sullivant's Hill for its panoramic view of Columbus and Ohio's statehouse. This began ending the Hill's privacy.

  • The military secretly placed enormous funding into Ohio's treasury several weeks before president-elect Grant took office. Governor Hayes immediately arranged for Eminent Domain to buy these mansions. He overpaid the owners to keep them happy and quiet.  

  • These mansions were immediately demolished.

  • Several months later, two extremely frightening state projects began construction. They were issued every inch of that 1.5 mile-long ridge overlooking Columbus.

  • The Columbus Lunatic Asylum was arguably the world's largest building, based on square footage of floor space. It was America's largest until the Pentagon opened in 1942. This official House of Horror was the most expensive project in Ohio's history (at that time). 


  • It was the architectural version of a vampire bat overlooking Columbus. Like the Wicked Witch's Castle overlooking Oz, it terrified people from miles away.

  •  The other frightening building filling Columbus's western horizon was the world's largest Imbecile Asylum.

  • These two frightening structures scared every nonrelated development away, restoring privacy to about 10-square-miles of Sullivant's Hill behind them.

  • Virtually the same day that Governor Hayes held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lunatic Asylum, Sullivant's Hill was (generically) renamed "the Hilltop."

  • Less than two years after the Lunatic Asylum opened (Saturday February 1, 1879, 1:00 AM), arsonists entered the Franklin County Courthouse's vault. They soaked all records of Sullivant's Hill (including these mansions) in coal oil, then incinerated them. They were respectful enough to relock the vault and courthouse on their way out.

  • The news reports did not mention which records were destroyed, however the only ones missing were all of Sullivant's Hill, and a small parcel just south of Westerville.

  • Also every feature showing map of Sullivant's Hill, from 1851-1883 has also vanished. I have looked for years; you won't find one beside 3 of just Camp Chase, which are all significantly different from each other.

  • For the next half-century, that underground facility and several underground levels of that Lunatic Asylum were home to the nation's secret programs, developments, and human research.  

  • In the 1920s, aircraft replaced trains as the fastest mode of transportation, and the nation began scattering its secret projects to highly remote locations.

  • In the mid-1920s, Washington began flying its secrets and agents around the nation in aircraft marked "US Air-Mail," causing this railroad-based facility to become obsolete.  

  • In 1926, the US post office built its Air Mail Central hub directly across Sullivant Avenue from the secret facility. It would remain the central US Air-mail hub for another decade. The airfield only housed US Air-mail and several private hangers. One was a "Trick" flying school, precisely what you would need for training spies to fly.

  • In the 1930s, Washington began turning the underground compound into its hidden junkyard of antiquated secrets.

  • In 1944, President Roosevelt ordered the facility sealed up then buried beneath this new GM factory. She said it remained packed with secret junk.

  • The "Sullivant Avenue Airport" closed in the late 1950s. This airfield is now the Holly Hills subdivision.

At that time, I was not overly impressed; it was just a very interesting conversation. However, I soon began noticing physical and circumstantial facts on and about the Hilltop that supported virtually everything she said, and almost nothing that did not. 

Connecting hundreds of evidence bits caused me to imagine plausible spy stories that locked these details together. These were loosely James Bond-like action tails, with as much humor, and technology I could include without killing plausibility. I enjoyed daydreaming about these stories for over three decades, until: 

In 2016, I took a look at that factory using Google Earth's historical satellite imagery.

The second image taken of the site taken about one year after the factory was completely cleared is still mind-blowing. The FDA satellite snapped a photo of that secret underground compound being removed just four months before the ground broke for the casino. The now underground junkyard of America's obsolete secrets, had to be cleared before the casino builders stumbled over it. 

At that time, the site was fenced and sealed so a hazmat could remove contamination GM had dumped in several lagoons along the site's eastern border (behind the row of homes) about 1200 feet east of this 1150 foot underground facility.