William Neil and his wife Hannah Schwing Neil each played significant roles in the early development of Columbus.
William was a large, outgoing, and ambitious man determined to make a fortune. His first successful business was a tavern on High Street, across from the Statehouse. The tavern was the forerunner of three Neil House Hotels on the site, and each served as a political and business power center, in their day.
William entered the transportation business in a big way. He started and merged several stagecoach lines, becoming known as "The Stagecoach King". He controlled much of the passenger traffic into the area, thus, providing tenants and customers for his tavern and hotel. Working with other prominent businessmen, he was instrumental in bringing the first railroad to Columbus, the Columbus & Xenia Railroad.
William also built his fortune by investing in land. He acquired a large tract of land north of the city that reached from First Avenue to Lane Avenue, and filled most of the acreage between High Street and the Olentangy River. His farm's main entrance was a private drive that today is called Neil Avenue, and is the street that runs north from the park. Upon his death, the Neil farm became the site for the main campus of The Ohio State University.
William's wife, Hannah, was also an influential figure in Columbus history. In an era when women stayed at home and shunned publicity, Hannah worked tirelessly to ease the conditions of poor women and children. She founded the Hannah Neil Mission Home for the Friendless, which became a national organization that survives today. She also helped establish the Columbus Female Benevolent Society, among other charitable organizations. Her legacy can still be seen in a brick mansion on East Main Street, the home of the Ohio Arts Council.