From the Hungarian Empire to Ross County, Ohio

The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015 image: David Driapsa
The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015
image: David Driapsa

I have such an amazing family, and I am sure you do, too. My father is first generation American; my mother is a Daughter of the American Revolutionary War; and I grew up in a European culture on my grandparents’ farm.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) is about histories and sometimes about the family landscapes experienced. Sometimes little is known of the past besides the fact that the owners are related; sometimes there is a large cache of precious history known by the family.

My family is fortunate to know our family and farm history. My grandfather, Emil Driapsa, and grandmother, Helen Kraus Driapsa, were born in Upper Hungary, the present-day Slovak Republic, emigrated to the U.S. and married in 1912 in Columbus, Ohio.

The couple had a goal of owning land in their new country, a dream that was almost impossible in Europe at the time. Through hard work and saving their earnings, the couple realized their dream in 1914 when they bought the 68-acre farm near the village of Bainbridge in Paxton Township, Ross County, Ohio. The local terrain reminded them of their homeland, and they sponsored other European immigrants to move onto the adjacent farms in what became the Potts Hill European Community.

The Driapsa Farmyard, 1960 image: David Driapsa
The Driapsa Farmyard, 1960
image: David Driapsa

The family brought gardening traditions from Europe, raising cows, chickens and turkeys, growing fruit and vegetables, picking black raspberries and harvesting natural products of the forest for income. Real estate taxes were their main expense, and during the Great Depression, in order to help pay them, Emil dug roadside drainage ditches, earning a dollar a day.

Neither Emil nor Helen drove an automobile. During World War II, their daughter Esther, who was then 14, was allowed by the state to obtain her driver’s license in order to drive her parents where needed.

Today, except for Emil and Helen’s farm, the immigrant family farms from their era have long vanished. The log house, barn, root cellar and gardens of the Driapsa farm are the only surviving reminder of the vibrant Potts Hill European Community that once flourished.

To help keep their history alive for future generations, the family entered the farm’s historical record into the U.S. Library of Congress as a Historic American Landscapes Survey, number HALS OH-07.

A reminder for those interested in preparing HALS documentation: July 31 is the deadline for the 2016 HALS Challenge: Documenting National Register Listed Landscapes. Since 2010, landscape architecture preservation enthusiasts from every state have been challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to increase awareness of particular cultural landscapes. Please help us celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service and the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by documenting the landscape of a National Historic Landmark or National Register Listing for HALS! Preservation Through Documentation!

by David Driapsa, FASLA, David J Driapsa Landscape Architecture

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