After a decade of bickering among Ohio legislators following its elevation to statehood in 1803 a search party went out looking for a spot to build a new capital city. They settled on a dense forestland on the east bank of the Scioto River that had been used only as a hunting ground. The site had the advantage of being centrally located with access to river transportation but carried the wilderness burdens of swamp-borne disease and conflicts over land ownership. Founded on February 14, 1812 and named for Christopher Columbus, the town stumbled along until the swamps were drained and a feeder canal tapped into the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1831.
Ever since, the population of Columbus has grown every decade. Unlike other American cities that were founded specifically to be state capitals Columbus was never satisfied with being just a government town. By 1875 five railroads were servicing the town as Columbus became the leading industrial and commercial town in central Ohio.
Of the many manufacturing concerns that sprung up in Columbus none was more important than making buggies. There were more than twenty buggyworks in town, earning Columbus the sobriquet of “Buggy Capital of the World.” By the 20th century the buggies had been forgotten and the diversified economic base laid the foundation for growth that made Columbus America’s 15th largest city and fourth biggest state capital.
Just as you don’t see any buggies on Columbus streets you won’t see many buildings the horse-drawn transports rode past either. Landmarks as old as a hundred years are few and far between on the Columbus streetscape but we will start our walking tour at one that has seen just about all of them come and go...
bounded by High, Broad, State and Third streets
The Ohio Statehouse is located on Capitol Square, a 10-acre plot of land donated by four prominent Columbus landowners, John Kerr, Lyne Starling, John Johnston and Alexander McLaughlin. The cornerstone was laid in 1839 and not fully completed until 1861. Limestone for the building was quarried on the west bank of the Scioto River and hauled to the site by convict and private labor on a railroad constructed just for that purpose. The Capitol is considered one of the country’s outstanding examples of Greek Revival style with inspiration drawn from several ancient structures and contributions from many architects. The Statehouse garners raves for its simplicity - stately Doric columns, a low and unadorned central pediment and the windowed astylar drum, referred to as a “Cupola,” which contains an occulus that lights the interior rotunda.
WALK OVER TO THE STATUE OF WILLIAM MCKINLEY IN FRONT OF THE STATEHOUSE ON HIGH STREET. ACROSS THE STREET IS...
17-41 South High Street
Today the Huntington Center contains the Huntington Center, Huntington Plaza, Doubletree Hotel Guest Suites Columbus, and the Huntington Bank Building. The Huntington Center at 512 feet tall and 37 floors is the 4th tallest building in Columbus, completed in 1984. The complex began in 1916 when the 50-year old bank settled into new quarters on Capitol Square in the Harrison Building, a 12-story office tower from the turn of the century. In 1926 that structure was incorporated into the Renaissance Revival Huntington Bank that anchors the north end (your right) of the Center.
TURN LEFT AND WALK SOUTH ON HIGH STREET.
Fifth Third Center
1 East State Street at southeast corner of High Street
David C. Beggs began selling upholstery goods and became the largest exclusive importer and jobber of carpets. curtains. rugs, parquetry floors and wall papers in Ohio. Beggs expanded into real estate and constructed the classically flavored, rectangular building at 21 East State Street, sheathed entirely in terra-cotta, in 1928. The office building was aging by the 1990s and in danger of demolition when it became part of the 25-story postmodern tower on the corner.
The Lazarus Building
northwest corner of State and Town streets, down to Front Street
Unlike most of the founders of America’s great retail empires, Simon Lazarus was not a merchant prince. In 1850, Lazarus, a rabbinical scholar, arrived in Columbus, and in 1851 he opened a one-room men’s clothing store downtown. The enterprise was successful but it was the second generation, Fred Jr. and Ralph, that transformed Lazarus into an iconic Columbus department store. In 1929 the company was one of the four founding members of Federated Department Stores that helped reshape the American retail landscape. The Lazarus Building is actually seven buildings, the first building – the East Building – opened in 1909. The other additions were added over the following 60 years. The one-time flagship store and headquarters of Federated Department Stores has been renovated into a premier “green” office space. The method included recycling more than 75 percent of the materials removed from the facility and the inclusion of a rooftop living garden which keeps the building cool.
Ohio National Bank
167 South High Street
This Neoclassical vault was added to the Columbus streetscape in 1930. Itsbeefy, fluted Doric columns and pilasters left no doubt about the strength and security of Ohio National, by the far the biggest bank in town, with the majority of commercial lending. The design was provided by Richards, McCarty & Bulford, the town’s go-to architectural firm in the early 1900s.
TURN RIGHT ON TOWN STREET AND WALK DOWN TO FRONT STREET ALONG THE LENGTH OF THE LAZARUS BUILDING. TURN RIGHT ON FRONT STREET, CONTINUING ALONG THE LAZARUS BUILDING. CROSS FRONT STREET INTO THE PLAZA WITH THE GIANT GAVEL AND LOOK ACROSS THE SCIOTO RIVER.
Central High School
west bank of Scioto River
Secondary school education began in Columbus in 1862. Central High School moved from East Broad and Sixth streets into this Neoclassical home designed by William B. Ittner in 1924. The school closed in 1982 but was reborn in the 1990s as part of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). Internationally acclaimed architect Arata Isozaki retained Central’s Ionic east facade facing the Scioto River along with new construction on the site of the school’s football field to construct the museum.
CONTINUE WALKING NORTH ON FRONT STREET. ADJACENT TO THE PLAZA IS...
Ohio Judicial Center
65 South Front Street
For most of its early existence the Supreme Court of Ohio made do in other people’s houses. The wheels started turning to build their own office building in 1913 but it took twenty years to become a reality. Harry Hake, a Cincinnati architect, won the commission and crafted one of Ohio’s finest Art Moderne structures, awash in decorative homages to the state’s history. Around the building are 61 murals depicting 15 Ohio cities and 18 politicians immortalized in bas relief. Fifteen different kinds of marble were cobbled together to create the building exterior. The final Depression-era price tag - $5 million.
30 West Broad Street at northeast corner of Front Street
At 555 feet, 6 inches tall this Art Deco-style tower was the tallest building between New york and Chicago when it was topped off in 1927. The extra six inches was not a coincidence - John Jacob Lentz of the American Insurance Union, and a former United States Congressman, conceived it to be exactly one foot taller than the Washington Monument. Today’s more accurate measuring tools make the actual difference less than an inch. The tower reigned as the city’s tallest building until 1973. The building was designed by C. Howard Crane, a Detroit architect who specialized in theater architecture, not raising the fifth highest building in the world. Caissons sunk over a hundred feet into the ground down to bedrock make the building extremely stable but the glazed terra-cotta tiles that skin the steel frame have not fared as well. A number of the sculptures that originally decorated the exterior had to be removed due to crumbling tiles.
Columbus City Hall
90 West Broad Street at northwest corner of Front Street
The five-story Neoclassical structure of Indiana limestone came along in sections in the 1920s; the last section was dedicated in 1936. The building started as a U-shape around a central courtyard which was later blocked off. City Hall was a team effort from the Allied Architects Association of Columbus which drew up plans for civic projects in the early 1900s.
TURN LEFT ON GAY STREET AND WALK PAST CITY HALL. WHEN THE ROAD BENDS RIGHT CONTINUE STRAIGHT THROUGH THE PARKING LOT DOWN TO MARCONI BOULEVARD AND TURN RIGHT.
Joseph P. Kinneary U.S. Courthouse
85 Marconi Boulevard
The City Beautiful movement, predicated on populating cities with classically modeled buildings on spacious grounds, swept America in the early 1900s and came to Columbus with five significant buildings designed in the Neoclassical and Streamline Moderne styles on the drawing board in the 1920s. Dedicated on October 18, 1934, this five-story Neoclassical composition from Richards, McCarty and Bulford was the last to be completed. The building was crafted from Ohio sandstone resting on a base on pink-gray granite. In 1998, the post office and courthouse was renamed to honor Judge Joseph P. Kinneary, who served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio from 1966 to 2001.
TURN RIGHT ON LONG STREET.
YMCA of Columbus
40 West Long Street
George Williams started the Young Men’s Christian Association in the back room of a London, England factory in 1844. The movement came early to Columbus under the leadership of Henry Beebe Carrington in 1855. The YMCA moved into this brick home, trimmed out in stone to look like an English Edwardian castle by architect Walter F. Shattuck, in 1924. This is the third, and longest-lived, of the YMCA buildings in Columbus.
8 East Long Street at northeast corner of High Street
This building began life as the Columbus Savings and Trust Building when completed in 1905. The bank had started as the Columbus Savings Association and changed to a trust in 1901. With coffers flush and optimism high, one of the town’s leading architects, Frank L. Packard, was let loose with a $500,000 budget and he unleashed some of the best terra-cotta decoration in the city. The bank, however, was liquidated in 1912. The 12-story Renaissance Revival building has survived for over 100 more years though as anticipates a future as residential space.
TURN RIGHT ON THIRD STREET. TURN RIGHT ON GAY STREET.
Law & Finance Building
85 East Gay Street
Pittsburgh architects Simons, Brittain & English made their name designing banks in the 1920s and the firm stopped in Columbus in 1927 to raise this Art Moderne high-rise of brick, marble and multi-colored terra-cotta decoration. Originally constructed for the Ohio State Savings Bank, it became notorious for being the most robbed bank in town during the hardscrabble Depression days of the 1930s.
Buckeye Federal Building
36 East Gay Street
New York architects Hopkins and Dentz came to town in 1926 to erect this monumental 15-story granite headquarters for the Buckeye State Building and Loan Company, the largest savings and loan financial institution in Columbus. Behind the towering Corinthian columns is a classically flavored four-story grand banking hall. The heritage skyscraper has been sensitively rehabilitated as a hotel.
22 East Gay Street
This is one of the few buildings in Columbus today you would have seen if walking the streets in the 1890s. The prominent arches of the Romanesque style on this 1895-office building would have been a familiar sight as you toured. Prominent architects Clarence E. Richards, Joel E. McCarty, and George H. Bulford kept their offices here for awhile.
51 North High Street at southwest corner of Gay Street
Richards, McCarty and Bulford gave this bank a massive Corinthian front in 1917 when it was constructed with six stories in 1917. When you look up today you can tell not nearly as much thought went into the additional three floors that were added in the 1960s.
Rankin Building at northeast corner of Wall Street
22 West Gay Street
This three-story rectangular brick structure was billed as the “first absolutely fireproof business office building in the state” when it was constructed in 1911 for the Buckeye State Building and Loan. There wasn’t a scrap of wood to be found inside or out. And it hasn’t burned down yet. The monumental Ionic columns that occupy the entire facade were a 1930 addition for the Union Building Savings and Loan.
TURN LEFT ON WALL STREET.
34 West Broad Street at northwest corner of Wall Street
The Palace Theatre was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in his signature “Adam” style, reminiscent of the 18th century neo-classical work of the Scottish architects James and Robert Adam. The construction of the theater was personally supervised by vaudeville mogul Edward Albee of the Keith-Albee circuit. It opened in 1926 as the Keith-Albee Palace and featured live vaudeville along with silent feature films, an orchestra and a Wurlitzer theater organ. The Palace shuttered in 1975 but was later renovated and preserved by owner Katherine LeVeque as a home for Opera Columbus and touring Broadway shows.
TURN LEFT ON BROAD STREET.
21 West Broad Street at southeast corner of Wall Street
This was the first steel-framed “modern” skyscraper in downtown Columbus, designed, appropriately enough, by one of the early high-rise pioneers, Daniel Burnham of Chicago. The money man was John Green Deshler whose father came to Columbus early and piled up land which he used to build a fortune in banking and the hotel business. Projecting bay windows give the landmark structure a distinctive appearance.
Capitol Trust Building
8 East Broad Street
Early skyscrapers were often crafted in the image of a classical column with a base (prominent lower floors), a shaft (unadorned central floors) and a capital (ornate cornice and top floors). The Capitol Trust Building that opened its doors on May 20, 1906 was such a skyscraper. Plans were drawn by busy Ohio architect Frank L. Packard.
New Hayden Building
16 East Broad Street
Today the National Football League is the most successful organization in the history of sports, generating billions of dollars every year. But for most of its first 20 years of existence the NFL was operated from the 11th floor of this unassuming building. After the league was founded in Canton in 1920 Joseph F. Carr, a mechanic for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Columbus and director of the Columbus Panhandles football team, was named the second president in 1921, replacing sports legend Jim Thorpe who had filed the post mostly as a famus name. Carr moved league operations into this 13-story skyscraper that had been constructed in 1901 by the estate of Columbus industrialist Peter Hayden. The NFL remained here until Carr’s death in 1939. Among the advances that took place during that time were the shifting of many franchises into major markets, the keeping of official statistics, the institution of the college draft and the creation of the first championship game.
20 East Broad Street
Built in 1869, the four-story Hayden Building is the oldest commercial building on Capitol Square. Nathan B. Kelley, who had been designing buildings in Columbus since the 1830s and spent time supervising work on the Statehouse, crafted a four-story Italianate-style building here out of hand-tooled sandstone blocks quarried near Waverly, Ohio. The building was owned by Peter Hayden, who was born in Massachusetts in 1806, and came to Columbus as a young man. He established the Columbus Iron Works and bought up enough land south of Columbus to start his own town called Haydenville. Hayden plowed his money into the Hayden Bank, the Hocking Railroad and real estate development like this.
Rhodes State Office Tower
30 East Broad Street
The tallest building in Columbus was opened in 1974 exactly in the middle of James A Rhode’s four terms as governor. No other person served as the state’s chief executive longer. The building stands 629 feet but was planned to go 150 feet higher which accounts for the odd configuration at the top of the Columbus skyline.
Trinity Episcopal Church
125 East Broad Street at southeast corner of 3rd Street
This congregation organized in 1817 and settled on this corner in 1869. Gordon W. Lloyd, an English architect working out of Detroit, provided the Gothic design for the sandstone building. Lloyd was the go-to architect for the Episcopal Church in the mid-1800s, designing most of the denomination’s churches and cathedrals in Michigan, Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The tower and parish house date to the early 1900s.
The Athletic Club of Columbus
136 East Broad Street
The Athletic Club of Columbus was founded in 1912 by a group of business professionals seeking both social and athletic diversion. Within a year the club merged with the already prominent Ohio Club and plans were hatched for a new clubhouse. This six-story brick clubhouse, an example of Spanish Renaissance Revival with Italian influence, was designed by Richards, McCarty & Bulford with Frank L. Packard as Advisory Architect - practically a Mount Rushmore of Columbus architects. Original members of the Athletic Club would likely recognize their clubhouse today, nearly 100 years later, as the building’s visage on East Broad Street has scarcely changed at all.
150 East Broad Street at northwest corner of 4th Street
This Beaux Arts confection came along in 1924, financed by coal baron M.L. Yuster. Look up at the entrance to see some of the town’s finest stonework.
181 East Broad Street at southeast corner of 4th Street
Following the Civil War Benjamin E. Smith, who made his money in banking and railroads, built a French Second Empire mansion that he considered the most elegant house in Columbus. His building contract stipulated that each brick be pressed in Philadelphia, wrapped separately in paper and shipped to Columbus. Smith’s passion, however, was to build the country’s finest amusement park and resort at Rockaway Beach, New York and the pursuit of that dream cost him all his money. He abandoned the house and two Ohio governors stayed here until the Columbus Club purchased the propertyin 1886 for $45,000. The building today as maintained by the club looks much the same as it did 150 years ago.
TURN RIGHT ON 4TH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON CAPITAL STREET.
34 South 3rd Street
The first edition of the Columbus Dispatch, a four page broadsheet, appeared on July 1, 1871, the product of ten printers with $900 in capital. In 1895 the paper moved to a new home on the corner of High and Gay streets and in 1925 slid to this side of Capitol Square into a Classical Revival headquarters. Since the demise of he Columbus Citizen-Journal in 1985 the Dispatch, self-proclaimed “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” has been the town’s only daily newspaper.
CROSS THE STREET ONTO CAPITOL SQUARE.
bounded by High, Broad, State and Third streets
This government temple, constructed of Columbus limestone between 1899 and 1901, began life as the Judiciary Annex where the Ohio Supreme Court was shuffled to from its original digs in the Statehouse. After a restoration in the 1990s it became the Senate Building with offices for 31 of the state’s 33 senators. The Senate President and Senate Minority Leader still report to work in the Statehouse. The outstanding architectural feature of the building is its Grand Hall, hewn of brilliant white marble and boasting a stained-glass Great Seal of Ohio skylight.
TURN LEFT ON 3RD STREET.
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Old, Old Post Office)
121 East State Street at southeast corner of 3rd Street
This was the first federal building constructed in Columbus and when the cornerstone was laid on October 21, 1884 the occasion warranted an elaborate ceremony orchestrated by the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons. The building that John T. Harris designed and the post office, federal courts and Internal Revenue service moved into on October 1, 1887 was a very different one than you see today. The original was scarcely half as big and in the Romanesque form. When the building was expanded in 1912 it was given a High Victorian Gothic makeover and seamlessly executed in the same Berea sandstone as had been used 25 years earlier. Regardless, the “Old, Old” Post Office stands as one of the town’s few remaining 19th century structures.
TURN RIGHT AT STATE STREET.
39 East State Street
The Ohio Theatre raised the curtain for the first time on March 17, 1928 with a screening of The Divine Woman with Greta Garbo sending her lover off to battle in the Great War. Thomas W. Lamb, the pre-eminent theater architect of the day, designed the building in an atmospheric Spanish Baroque motif. In its early days the Ohio Theatre also hosted the biggest live acts touring America. The Ohio ended its run in 1969 but escaped the wrecking ball and was meticulously restored to its original appearance in the 1970s and served as a model for many subsequent historic renovation projects in the United States.
WALK ACROSS THE STREET TO THE OHIO STATEHOUSE AND THE START OF THE TOUR.