The Secrets of Sullivant's Hill
From 1982 to 1990, I sold new cars near the General Motors factory on Columbus's Hilltop. Inside my office, I displayed several dozen antique postcards of Central Ohio. Because most of my customers were older West Side residents, these cards sparked many historical conversations about Franklinton and Sullivant's Hill (The Hilltop's actual name).
On numerous occasions, I heard that before Columbus annexed it, Sullivant's Hill was Washington's primary location for weapon development programs and covert (undercover) agencies.
Several times, I heard that a tunnel headed west (over Sullivant's Hill) from the (now-defunct) Hilltop Lunatic Asylum and that a network of tunnels that connected them converged deep below the spot that today West High School occupies. In 1929, this school opened on the former site of Camp Chase, the Northern Army's second-largest prison camp of the Civil War.
Most of this was vague information; people with detailed knowledge were scarce. I have not seen any physical evidence of any tunnels. However, a few people did seem to know direct or insider information about the secrets of Sullivant's Hill. Before I expose the one insider bombshell (bold print below), here are several pieces of first-hand information:
A fellow who worked as a maintenance engineer at that lunatic asylum (The Ohio State Mental Hospital) in the 1980s told me that the building had a stairwell that reached several additional (abandoned) floors beneath its basement level. A cinder block wall thwarted farther access to the stairs; he believed it had more hidden levels.
So do I.
That asylum was built decades before cinder blocks were used in the United States, so that wall had to have been installed decades after construction to block access to either more levels or tunnels. I don't think we even discussed tunnels.
FACT: From 1875 to 1942, this massive asylum was (by far) America's largest building (square footage of floor space). It was also meant to be America's most terrifying building. It was the most extreme example of Kirkbride Architecture ever built.
From above, Kirkbride buildings looked like a bat spreading its wings. However, this ultimate version took a spooky step further. Vampire bat features also inspired virtually all of its design elements. Its size would have been terrifying back then, as no other buildings (in America) even approached it for forty years. It was so enormous that it remained the largest building in the country until the Pentagon opened in 1942 (65 years later).
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This Asylum's Bat Shape from Above
Perched atop Sullivant's Hill's 110-foot eastern ridge, it dominated Columbus's western horizon, horrifying citizens from miles away.
From the 1870s through 1920, this castle of fear, plus the nation's largest imbecile asylum, simultaneously built next door, scared away virtually all unrelated developments from this 12-square-mile hill.
My timeline page provides verifiable evidence that this official Castle of Fear was utterly unnecessary, unaffordable, and overwhelmingly rejected by the state in 1867.
Then, one year later (1868), Ohio-born and raised President Grant, Ohio Governor Hayes, and Ohio Congressman Garfield (3 Ohio generals who would become US president in succession) were elected. Their first deed was to shove this Lunatic Asylum through Ohio's Legislature, including moving it to Sullivant's Hill, staring down at Columbus. Verifiable timeline facts prove they wanted this monstrosity to keep the country's top-secret operations (operating behind it) secure and isolated. Using asylum guards instead of an Army security battalion prevented suspicions that Washington was running top-secret programs on Sullivant's Hill.
Do not miss "The Crazy Years" 1867-1870 on the verified event timeline.
Another Hilltop customer told me that right after the Civil War, a line of luxury homes began popping up on Sullivant's Hill's eastern ridge for its view of Columbus and Ohio's finally finished statehouse. He said most of those mansions were never completed because the state bought them out for two state-run asylums. This happened in January 1869, just before all those already elected Ohio Generals were sworn in.
In 1870, these massive asylum projects (lunatic and imbecile) were issued every inch of that ridge (about 1.5 miles) for their lawns.
The timeline page exposes a slick 1879 arson inside the Franklin County courthouse's vault that destroyed only all the records of Sullivant's Hill, which included only everything previously built on this hill. The articles never mention which county areas were destroyed; however, I know this because the rest of Franklin County's records and maps from 1850 to 1880 still exist!
The blueprints for the asylums and all detailed maps of Sullivant's Hill printed after 1851 are also missing.
We only know where Camp Chase was from its wall and graveyard remnants. Not a single map shows its exact location. Three maps of just this walled camp do exist, yet all three are more dissimilar than similar. Four county maps from 1884-1914 have the name "Camp Chase" printed on them; however, all four only display the name west of rail line 51, closer to the underground fort. The walls around this 135-acre prison camp were right behind today's West High School, about a half mile east of the railroad.
This fellow also said the asylum was funded from gold that General Grant and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had quietly slipped into Ohio's treasury. This gold was confiscated from Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his escape attempt. Stanton supposedly told Davis that his entire family would be painfully murdered if he ever mentioned having the gold. I have no evidence, but it seems logical that Jefferson Davis would have tried to escape with the Confederate treasury.
Verifiable note - The lunatic asylum was by far the most expensive project (government or private) in Ohio's history at that time, costing about 50% more than Ohio's 600-mile-long Erie Canal System.
Can you imagine Ohio politicians spending that much on lunatics before themselves? I can, as long as Washington secretly paid for it.
The most detailed story came from an original secretary at that GM factory, which opened in 1945. She casually stated that from the Civil War to the 1st World War, almost all of our country's top-secret development, manufacturing projects, and its first covert (undercover) spy agency operated along the "Railroad to Nowhere," which ran straight over Sullivant's Hill, (it was the Columbus to Xenia RR - today it is the Camp Chase bike path).
She told me that in 1944, President Roosevelt made an offer that GM could not refuse. They were to immediately build that 34-acre factory above a secret underground spy complex to entomb it permanently.
She said the underground complex was originally a secret weapons factory built during the Civil War and that all the secret projects were lined up along this remote rail. They were guarded by two Union Army security battalions stationed at Camp Chase, the Union Army's second-largest prisoner-of-war camp. She even knew that Ohio State Penitentiary convicts built the underground base.
Once electrified (lighting and ventilation), in the late 1870s, the underground fort became the headquarters of the country's first covert spy agency. She said the secret agency was called "ORPHAN." I wish I had set up a complete meeting about this with her to tape record all her details, but by the time I realized how important her words were, 15 to 20 years had passed.
I did not fully believe this legend until 2016 after discovering and studying this satellite imagery showing what appears to be that hidden complex exactly where she said it was.
She added that in the 1930s, the complex was converted into an underground junkyard of the country's antiquated secrets. This would explain why it had to be cleared before the casino builders uncovered it. Washington could have ignored it if they had cleaned it out in 1944, claiming the builders had found an abandoned Civil War weapons factory.