top of page

The Secret Legends of Sullivant's Hill (Columbus's Hilltop) 


  • 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 that 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.

  • Although Columbus was only three miles away, Sullivant's Hill was also highly secluded. This continued 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 (square footage of floor space). It was America's largest until the Pentagon opened in 1942. This building was by far 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 non-related development away, restoring privacy to this 10-square-mile Hill.

  • The same day 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 (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 thoughtful enough to relock the vault and courthouse on their way out.

  • Every feature showing map (Sullivant's Hill) from 1851-1883 has also vanished. I have looked for years; you won't find one.

  • 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 and 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.

From the 1870s through the 1920s, The Columbus Lunatic Asylum, arguably the world's largest building in square footage when built, kept almost everyone scared away from the Top-Secret projects running beneath and behind it.

bottom of page