Kossuth St. Garden

On the longest night of the year, when Saturn and Jupiter connected in the galaxy, on the South Side of Columbus, a couple of dozen people gathered together at the Kossuth Street Garden to their Winter Solstice Event.

Kossuth Street Garden director Michael Doody posted on his Facebook page that the Winter Solstice is “The Return of the Sun” in the Inuit Tribe. The Garden was lit with Luminaries to bring light to the Garden. The approximate two dozen attendees each held a candle to commemorate those who we lost this year. The purpose of this year’s Winter Solstice Event was to honor the Frontliners of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and to fight to keep the Kossuth Street Garden alive.

The Kossuth Street Garden, in the Southern Orchards Neighborhood in South Columbus is the target of re-development by developers. The South Side Area Commission and the Southern Orchards Civic Association both approved the Zoning Variances for development on the site. In January, the Garden will head to the City of Columbus Division of Planning and Development.

Doody has told the story of the Kossuth Street Garden, and the efforts to save the Garden on WCRS/WGRN radio programs “Conscious Voices” and “The Other Side of the News”. The Garden has the money to buy their portion of the lot, located in the 600 block of East Kossuth Street in the Southern Orchards neighborhood in South Columbus. However, the developer of the one acre lot wants the entire lot “in order to clear a profit”, according to a statement that Doody posted on the Garden’s Official Facebook Page.

Doody added that “(the developer) will ask Columbus City Council for tax abatements for his $250,000 to $350,000 "affordable homes". Doody added in a radio interview on Conscious Voices with Evan Davis, “The green space would sequestered into individual private owners, in back yards. You wouldn’t see green space in any of these homes.” “We think a housing development can be benefitted with a green space next to it,” Doody added, defending his case for the Garden.

The Kossuth Street Garden opened in 2008 on the site of a former warehouse, that according to an interview on the WCRS radio program Conscious Voices, was a slaughterhouse at one point that served the Jewish community, which was centralized on the South Side in the 19th and Early 20th Century.  The Kossuth Street Garden has hosted annual events prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, such as Earth Day in April and co-hosted a Harvest Festival with nearby Ganther’s Place in late August. This Summer, there were Community Vigils at the Garden on Monday nights during the Summer. The Garden is home to Memorials of deceased activists and community volunteers, such as Amber Evans, Emily Noble, and Ruben Castilla-Herrera.

“There are other gardens that have come and gone, whether they are Land Bank (Properties) or they were on private land, and they were allowed to garden. They were good gardens that served the community,” Doody said. “As soon as the community or neighborhood began to gentrify, the gardens were out, and the developers were allowed to move in. We’re of the opinion that this is happening now, and this is why we are in this situation where we’re trying to use every means necessary to save not just our garden. This is a test case and a precedence for other gardens, but any other green space. It might not have a garden on it. It might be an empty lot, where a Mom or Dad could fly kites with the kids, or they can play pitch and catch, badminton, croquet, or whatever. When you talk about new, hip urban development with a sequestering green space, that doesn’t do anything good, except for the people who will be lonely inside their house.” In that interview with Davis, Doody also shared his opinion on public transportation and making it more adequate for denser and more sensibly vibrant communities, and how that all ties in together. 

You can listen to the full interview with Doody and Davis, as well as Doody’s interview with Bob Fitrakis online at wcrsfm.org. For more details on how to support the efforts to save the Kossuth Street Garden, contact the garden at kossuthgarden@gmail.com.