As the Ohio History Connection continues to allocate and prioritize its resources, we no longer have the capacity to update and moderate content on Ohio History Central. These pages will be taken down effective Dec. 31, 2023.

Columbus, Ohio

From Ohio History Central
OHS AL01743.jpg
Elevated view of High Street in Columbus, Ohio looking north from Broad Street, ca. 1910-1920.

Columbus is both the capital of Ohio and the county seat of Franklin County.

The city was first laid out in 1812 and incorporated in 1816. Columbus was not the original capital, but the state legislature chose to move the state government there after short periods in both Chillicothe and Zanesville. Columbus was chosen as the site for the new capital because of its central location within the state and access to transportation routes (primarily rivers) at that time. The legislature chose it as Ohio's capital over a number of other competitors, including Franklinton, Dublin, Worthington, and Delaware. Prior to the state legislature's decision in 1812, Columbus did not exist. The city was designed from the first as the state's capital, preparing itself for its role in Ohio's political, economic, and social life.

In the years between first groundbreaking and the actual movement of the capital in 1816, Columbus grew significantly. The town was surveyed, and various city lots were put up for sale. By 1813, a penitentiary had been built, and by the following year the first church, school, and newspaper had been established. The statehouse was built in 1814 as well. Columbus grew quickly in its first few years, having a population of seven hundred people by 1815. It officially became the county seat in 1824. By 1834, the population of Columbus was four thousand people, officially elevating it to "city" status. In that year, Columbus residents elected John Brooks as its first mayor.

Although Columbus suffered as a result of the Panic of 1819, in the following decades the capital continued to grow both economically and in terms of population. Much of Columbus' growth can be attributed to its proximity to major transportation routes. Columbus was connected to the Ohio and Erie Canal by way of an eleven-mile feeder canal in September 1831. By 1836, the National Road extended from Cumberland, Maryland, to Columbus, and within the next several years eventually extended all the way to Illinois. In the 1840s and 1850s, railroads and telegraph lines connected the capital to other parts of the state as well.

As might be expected of a capital city, Columbus became a center of learning and social activities in the nineteenth century. A significant number of both private and public schools existed within the city. In addition, there were two colleges located in Columbus by the late nineteenth century -- The Ohio State University and Capital University. Ohio State was a state-supported school, while the Lutheran Church founded Capital University. Two medical schools also functioned at this time, Starling Medical College and the Columbus Medical College. Supplementing this emphasis on education were a number of libraries containing thousands of volumes, an Art School, and numerous musical societies and concerts. According to city records in the 1880s, Columbus boasted more than fifty churches and approximately six hundred saloons. The city supported numerous newspapers and magazines as well.

As capital, Columbus also hosted a number of legal and medical institutions. In addition to hospitals associated with the medical colleges, Columbus reputedly had the largest insane asylum in the world, with approximately 1,300 patients. It also supported an "Asylum for Feeble-Minded Youth," a "Blind Asylum," and a "Deaf and Dumb Asylum." The Ohio Penitentiary was also located in the capital and housed about 1,400 people by the late 1800s.

By the mid-nineteenth century, industry had begun to emerge in the Columbus area, growing quickly in the years following the Civil War. Columbus' industrial development benefited from the nearby transportation systems as well as the city's position as the state capital. By the 1880s, there were almost two hundred factories in operation, with fifty-eight of them employing at least forty people apiece. These industries included factories manufacturing shoes, cigars, farm tools and machinery, furniture, carriages, and brooms; iron manufacturers and foundries; and brewing companies established by German migrants. The most important breweries in the city included the Schlee Brewery and the Hoster Brewery. Another major employer was the Columbus Buggy Company. Originally known as the Iron Buggy Company, by the late 1800s, this business could produce one buggy every eight minutes. It claimed to be the largest producer of buggies in the world.

Despite this industrial growth, Columbus was not the state's largest city. The community's population soared during the Civil War. Camp Chase, located in Columbus, served as a training encampment for Northern soldiers before they embarked for the South. Camp Chase also included a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers also operated at Camp Chase. This population increase lasted for only the duration of the conflict. In the 1880 census, the city's population was 51,647.

During the twentieth century, Columbus continued to grow and prosper. Due to lighted arches that spanned over the city's major north-south thoroughfare, High Street, Columbus earned the reputation of being the most "brilliantly illuminated city in the country." Most of these arches disappeared by mid century, but in 2002, the city began to construct new ones to celebrate Columbus' past. The Ohio State University, which had approximately one thousand students in 1900, was the second largest institution of higher education in the United States in 2000, boasting an enrollment of 47,000 students. Numerous other colleges existed in the city in 2015, including Franklin University, Ohio Dominican College, Columbus State University, and the Columbus College of Art & Design. The city's suburbs also boast several other institutions of higher education.

Thought of at one time to be an important industrial center, Columbus has changed through the 1900s as the United States economy changed. As of 2015, Nationwide Insurance, Chase Bank, The Limited, and numerous other prominent businesses employed the city's residents. The city has the largest population in Ohio, numbering 790,389 people in 2010. The city also experienced tremendous territorial growth as it annexed surrounding land and communities beginning in the 1950s. In 1950, Columbus consisted of just less than forty square miles of land. In 2000, the city's borders encompassed more than two hundred square miles of land.

Columbus also has a booming cultural life. The Columbus Museum of Art, the Ohio History Connection, and the Center for Ohio Science and Industry are three of the city's important museums. Columbus also has one of the nation's finest zoos. Columbus is home of the 2003 and 2015 NCAA football National Champions, The Ohio State Buckeyes. The Columbus Blue Jackets, a member of the National Hockey League, the Columbus Crew, the city's professional soccer team, and the Columbus Clippers professional baseball team provide residents with additional entertainment opportunities.

See Also