St. Mary Church was dedicated in 1868 in response to the spiritual needs of the growing German-Catholic population of Columbus' South Side. The original schoolhouse, which stands behind the church, was erected in 1865 under the direction of Rev. Francis X. Specht, St. Mary's first pastor. It served as a temporary house of worship until the Gothic-style church was completed. St. Mary's distinctive spire—soaring 197 feed into the Columbus sky—was added in 1893.
By 1865 Columbus' population was one-third German, and the South Side had become a thriving working-class community. The new immigrants built homes and churches and established schools. Local German businesses, organizations, and newspapers prospered.
German Village is one of the premier historic restorations in the world, and is the largest privately funded historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 1,600 buildings have been restored since 1960.