Capital City Celebrates 200 Years

Ohio’s capital city celebrates a milestone this year, when it reaches the age of 200. You can find photographs, documents and memorabilia associated with 200 years of Columbus history in our archives at the Ohio History Center in Columbus and in many instances online in our Ohio Memory digital repository. Here’s a sampling.

Since 1812
When Ohio was founded in 1803, Chillicothe was the capital. The state capital moved to Zanesville in 1810, then returned to Chillicothe in 1812. Deciding that a more central location would be best, the general assembly founded a new capital city, Columbus, on Feb. 14, 1812. Named after Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, it was platted on a site across the Scioto River from the village of Franklinton, in an area that was still wooded at the time. See papers of two of Franklinton’s founders, Lucas Sullivant and Joseph Sullivant online (finding aids are available if you click on their names) or in our archival collections at the Ohio History Center in Columbus.

The first capitol building in Columbus was built in 1814 and the Ohio General Assembly met in the new capital city for the first time in 1816. Columbus grew steadily and by the early 1830s it was linked to the nation and the world by the National Road and a feeder to the Ohio and Erie Canal. In 1834, the local population reached 4,000, enough that Columbus officially became a city, and in 1837 Columbus annexed neighboring Franklinton, founded in 1797.

Work on the present Ohio Statehouse began in 1839 and after more than two decades of on-again off-again construction, it was completed in 1861. Located on Capitol Square in the heart of Columbus, it remains one of the city’s great landmarks, internationally known as an example of the Greek Revival architecture popular in the early days of our country. In the third floor research room at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, you can see drawings, prints and photographs documenting the Statehouse in the Ohio Statehouse Collection (Call Number: AV 8) and the Ohio Statehouse Engineering Drawings Collection (Call Number: State Archives Series 2793 AV).

The outbreak of the Civil War led to a significant increase in the national influence of Columbus and Ohio. Camp Chase, on the city’s west side, was a major Union Army hub and camp for Confederate prisoners. Camp Chase records in our archives at the Ohio History Center include a rare, full-plate ambrotype photograph (Call Number: AP 1870).

Abraham Lincoln visited Columbus to give a speech in 1859 and again on his way to Washington, D.C., as President-elect in 1861. In 1865, Lincoln’s body returned to Columbus to lie in state in the Statehouse rotunda, en route to its final resting place in Springfield, Ill. You can see photographs of Lincoln’s funeral rites in Columbus by visiting the third floor research room at the Ohio History Center in Columbus and asking to see the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Collection (Call Number AV 83).

From Lazarus to White Castle
After the Civil War, Columbus continued to grow. A number of local businesses that gained national reputations were founded in Ohio’s capital city, including the F. & R. Lazarus Co. department store (which gave birth to Federated Department Stores, today’s Macy’s) and Jeffrey Manufacturing Co., makers of mining equipment and industrial chain. Visit the third-floor research room at the Ohio History Center in Columbus to see papers and photos related to the Lazarus family and stores — ask for Call Numbers MSS 352 and P 311. The history of Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. up to 1974 is chronicled in business records and photos, too — ask to see Call Numbers MSS 1356 and P 251.

Twentieth-century Columbus companies are also represented in our archival collections at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, which include records of the former Big Bear grocery store chain (Call Number: MSS 1355 AV) and White Castle Systems Inc., parent company of White Castle restaurants (Call Numbers: MSS 991 and P 394).

Photos Too
Collections illustrating the general history of Columbus include an extensive collection of late 19th and early 20th-century photographs from the Baker Art Gallery, a leading Columbus photo studio of the time whose archives (Call Number P 51), came to the Ohio Historical Society when the studio closed in the 1950s, and photographs from two of the city’s major newspapers, the Columbus Dispatch (Call Number P 245) and Columbus Citizen-Journal (Call Number P 349).

Additionally, you can see photos of Depression-era Columbus in the Ohio Guide Collection, taken and collected by the staff of the Ohio Writer’s Project to illustrate The Ohio Guide, a 1940 publication in the American Guidebook series. See the Ohio Guide photographs  online in our Ohio Memory digital repository. A keyword search for “Columbus” retrieves hundreds of photographs.

Check It Out
This is a just a sample of materials in Ohio Historical Society collections documenting 200 years of Columbus history. Online, in addition to Ohio Memory, you can also search our Online Collections Catalog for more items relating to Columbus history that are in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society. In addition, you can see archival and printed materials that are not online in the third floor research room at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, open Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Museum objects are also available for research by appointment — to learn more, call 614.297.2535 or e-mail collections@ohiohistory.org.

When You Visit
Big as it is, our third floor research room is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the resources listed above are stored elsewhere and brought out as needed, so when you visit the research room, begin at the reference desk (look for the big word “EXPLORE”). Our experienced staff will explain how to fill out a “call slip” to request items you’d like to see (Tip: noting the collection name and call number above and bringing it along with you may save some time). Once you’ve filled out the request, our staff will locate it and bring it to you in the research room. In planning your visit, please allow about 10-15 minutes for each collection you want to see in addition to the time you plan to spend looking at it, so that we can retrieve it from storage for you. Questions about visiting or using any of the above resources? 614.297.2510 calls our archives /library, which is open Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Learn More About 200 Columbus
Learn more about Columbus’s bicentennial plans at the official Columbus Bicentennial website, 200Columbus.com. For information on visiting Ohio’s capital city and its history-related attractions, visit experiencecolumbus.com.


Bicentennial Program March 4
Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m. at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, enjoy a program on historic Green Lawn Cemetery, final resting place of many of the community leaders who helped build and shape the city of Columbus. Green Lawn Cemetery Volunteer Coordinator Sandi Latimer presents a bicentennial program on some of the city’s early residents who are interred at Green Lawn, followed by an informal discussion, free with museum admission: $10/adult (13-59), $9/senior (60+), $5/youth (6-12), Free/Ohio Historical Society member, Free/child (age 5 and under). 800.686.6124.

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