The first neighborhood guild association began when Ms. Anna B. Keagle, both a high school and Sunday School teacher in the Flytown neighborhood, discovered all of her 8-10 year old charges were in jail one Sunday.

In November of 1898, she and fourteen others became neighborhood activists and rented half of a brick double on West Goodale Street. By June 1899 they outgrew the house. In 1900 the Association set out to build a commodious settlement house.

Various trustees raised $6,000 to buy land and Henry C. Godman of the Godman Shoe Company gave $10,000 for the building fund. Construction began in May, 1900 and was completed in November.


Historical Highlights

1898 – The First Neighborhood Guild Association Boys’ Club was established.

1900 – The First Neighborhood Guild Association became the Godman Guild Association.

Flytown was the beginning place for many immigrants coming to Columbus seeking opportunities for work and a better life. The Guild provided English classes, employment opportunities, programs and activities for boys and girls, and constant assessment of needs.

Plays, skits, music and dancing were part of the programs involving people of all ages at the Guild, especially children.

1908 – The District Nurses’ Association used the Guild as a distributing point for free milk. This continued throughout the 1930’s.

1910 – Supervised classes in cooking, sewing, manual training and craft work were offered and well attended at the Guild. A 1910 Guild report stated that many domestic science teachers in public schools in Cincinnati, Dayton, Findlay, Akron, Columbus and many other cities got their first practice work in the Godman Guild Domestic Science Rooms.

The Guild conducted the first supervised playground in Columbus, setting the example for the city, which began the playground movement in 1910.

The Guild pioneered the recreation center movement, which rapidly spread in the city. For many years, its gymnasium was the only one available for boys and girls at a nominal fee.


1911 – In 1910, 1,592 music lessons were given at the Guild by qualified music teachers.

1915 – The Guild’s public baths were the first public baths in Columbus. Low priced baths were provided to the poor.


1917 – The Guild established community gardens located at Olentangy Boulevard at the river and West Goodale Street, north to East Third Avenue and west to the railroad, plotting seventy acres and 500 lots. Nearly 500 families raised over $20,000 in vegetables at wholesale prices in 1920. The gardens were nationally recognized in a 1930 U.S. Department of Commerce bulletin, noting its value in solving wartime food shortages and providing subsistence for the underprivileged, the unemployed and the part-time worker.

1919 – A number of groups held meetings for social and civic purposes at Godman Guild, among them, the Piave Club. O.P. Gallo, who participated in Godman Guild as a young person, suggested the name (Piave is a river in Italy) for the club. It also had a ladies auxiliary and a junior auxiliary.

Many Italians, Irish, German and African Americans felt a strong camaraderie at the guild where many developed skills for adapting to a new country.


1920 – With lunches packed campers boarded the train at the C.D. & M. station to go to the first Guild camp, Camp Johnson.

1921 – In cooperation with district nurses, hospitals and other health and welfare agencies, the Godman Guild provided basic human needs through baby dispensaries, prenatal care and secured material aid where necessary. Mothers and babies were sent to Camp Mary Orton for a healthful “vacation”.

1922 – Organized athletic teams were character builders that not only gave the players something to do, but challenged them to be their best. William “Plunk” Ford and Murray “Chock” Ford, brothers, both played with the Harlem Globetrotters. Basketball continued until late 1950’s when the gymnasium was demolished for urban renewal and freeways.

1923 – The Ohio State University College of Dentistry provided free dental care for children and adults in the Guild’s service area.

Cartoonist Billy Ireland featured the Guild’s growth and service in a Columbus Dispatch illustration.

1927 – Fifty-nine miles north of Columbus, Camp Wheeler in Chesterville, Ohio, was established by Godman Guild. This camp was exclusively for African Americans.

1931– The Guild provided excursions for individuals living in the service area. Trips included camps, athletic events, and museums. In 1998, excursions included Niagara Falls and white water rafting

1953 – A swimming pool was built at Camp Mary Orton.

1955 – Flytown was demolished for urban renewal and for freeway construction (I-670) in the late 1950’s. Many residents moved north and continued to utilize the services of the Guild. The Guild was housed in temporary locations until 1962.

1962 – The Guild moved to 321 West Second Avenue. There were new neighbors to serve and a new service area to reshape. The neighborhood continued to feel the impacts of urban renewal, housing rehabilitation target area, commercial strip revitalization, and subsidized housing.


1965 – 1970’s – The Guild was instrumental in assisting the organization of many neighborhood groups including Near Northside Neighborhood Council, Association of Near Northside Businessmen, Victorian and Italian Villages, Harrison West, Weinland Park, St. Mark’s Community Health Center, Neighborhood Homes Inc., and Harper Valley Mother’s Club, to name a few.

1970 – Animals were introduced to campers at Camp Mary Orton offering a good observation point to learn about nature.

1978 – Bernadine Killworth Park at the East Second Avenue office, was developed and dedicated in 1985 to honor this staff member who served the Godman Guild for forty-one years. Annual Park Pride events are held to honor volunteers.

1980 – Analysis by the Guild identified the near north side east of High Street as an area of emerging economic and social distress.

1994 – The East Sixth Avenue building became the permanent Godman Guild East Office to replace an E. Fifth Avenue storefront operation. Originally built as the Sixth Avenue Elementary School in 1961, primarily to accommodate the overflow of children in nearby local schools, the school closed in 1974. The school does not have a gymnasium/auditorium, a lunchroom or the needed space to accommodate current services and programs.

1995 – The Guild began positive alternatives to suspension from school program. It became part of the Columbus Public Schools strategic plan. Today it has evolved into the Learning Enhancement Program.

1995 – The Leadership and Challenge Center at Camp Mary Orton enables children and adults to extend their ability to achieve, lead others, and become reliable team players through ground level initiatives and high ropes courses.


1996 – A new and bigger pool was built at Camp Mary Orton with the generous contribution of Harold Squire, dedicated as the Squire Swim Center.

The Guild was designated at a National Science Foundation Math/Science Center to provide after school and in-school projects.

The Guild established its first development board to provide scholarships for neighborhood children to attend the Summer Youth Empowerment Program at Camp Mary Orton.

1998 – Year round school aged childcare programs with a learning focus were developed including Summertime Time Safari (a Summer Day Camp) and Latchkey-after-school day care.

The Guild hired its first Development Director, Mary B. Relotto.

1999 – Career Quest is a counseling program for job seekers in the community who have mental health and chemical dependency issues.

Randy Morrison celebrates 25 years as the Guild’s Executive Director.

One of Ohio’s most innovative employment program, Project Build, proves successful in getting under/unemployed adults training and experience in the construction industry. Eight out of eleven students completed the course and are working full time in the construction industry.

2000 – Project Build proved so successful in 1999 that the program is being offered three times during 2000. We project approximately 40 adult students will be off of welfare and working in the construction industry.

Opportunity Knocks is implemented at the Guild to work with families who will be affected during October 2000 when welfare is no longer available to them.

2001 – Godman Guild raises $1.3 million for capital improvement and additions to its 303 East Sixth Avenue location.

The community is informed that Godman Guild’s 321 West Second Avenue is for sale.

2002 – The Guild holds an Open House in August celebrating the opening of the completed building at 303 East 6th Avenue.

2008 – In a joint partnership with OSU Extension,  Godman Guild opens the Community Outreach Center at 1427 N. Grant Avenue.

2009 – Godman Guild is named Fiscal Agent for the Columbus ABLE (Adult Basic Literacy Education) Consortium.  This Consortium is funded by Ohio Board of Regents.

2010 – Godman Guild celebrates the 100th anniversary of Camp Mary Orton.  Camp Mary Orton hosts the Adventure Therapy Best Practices Conference.

2011 – Ellen Moss Williams becomes President  & CEO of Godman Guild Association.  Ellen comes with 14 years’ experience with Godman Guild having served as Director of Youth & Family Education and of Workforce Development.

2011– Godman Guild becomes a member of the Weinland Park Collaborative supporting redevelopment of the Weinland Park neighborhood. Ellen Moss Williams is asked to serve as Co-Chair alongside Dr. Lisa Courtice, Columbus Foundation.

2012 – Godman Guild acquires Northside Development Corporation (NDC).  This 501-c (3) organization had been incorporated 25 years ago (with support from Godman Guild) to support the stabilization of housing in the Weinland Park neighborhood.  With the large influx of housing support coming from the Weinland Park Collaborative, NDC was no longer necessary.  Northside’s Board of Trustees voted to formally transfer the 501-c (3) to the Guild including all cash assets.  NDC was then repurposed and rebranded to become Community Economic Development Corporation of Ohio (CEDCO).

2013 – Godman Guild’s Board of Trustees adopt a new Five Year Strategic Plan.  This plan puts forth an overarching aspiration for the Guild to be widely recognized as a Leader in Social Innovation through Strategic Collaboration.  Our Plan is based on six key priority areas – Organizational Improvement, Revenue Diversification, Educational Achievement, Economic Development, Health & Wellness, and Community Engagement.

2014 – As part of the Five Year Strategic Plan, The Godman Guild undergoes a wide sweeping, all-encompassing reorganization was designed to better align the organization with our corporate supporters, firm up back office support and create an organization structure able to grow into the future.  This reorganization includes the governing body make-up.  The Camp Mary Orton Advisory Board is merged into the Godman Guild Board of Trustees.

2014 – Camp Mary Orton was awarded the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Organizational Member of the Year for 2014!  The Organizational Member Award is given to an organization that maintains innovative and outstanding programming at consistently high standards and demonstrates consistent commitment to and support for the work of AEE.