Know Ohio: The Formation of Columbus

IT’S CALLED “THE CROSSROADS OF OHIO” BECAUSE COLUMBUS IS THE CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR HEART-SHAPED STATE -- AND IT MAKES SENSE THAT THE CITY AT THE CENTER SHOULD BE OUR STATE CAPITAL, BUT THIS WASN’T ALWAYS THE CASE!

BEFORE 1816, THE STATE CAPITAL HOPPED BETWEEN CHILLICOTHE AND ZANESVILLE, BUT WHEN OHIO BECAME A STATE IN 1803, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DECIDED THEY NEEDED A CITY PLANNED ESPECIALLY FOR THE STATEHOUSE AND ALL THAT HAPPENS IN THE GOVERNMENT. THEY WANTED SOMEWHERE THAT WAS CENTRAL AND HAD ACCESS TO WATERWAYS FOR TRAVEL.

THEY DECIDED ON LOCATING THE STATE CAPITAL “ON THE HIGH BACK OF THE SCIOTO” RIVER AND NAMED IT COLUMBUS, AFTER CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. PRIOR TO 1812 COLUMBUS DIDN’T EXIST, SO PLANNERS HAD THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM! THEY GOT TO WORK BUILDING THE CITY FROM THE GROUND UP. THEY PLOTTED OUT LAND AND PUT LOTS UP FOR SALE. BY 1813 THE STATE’S JAIL WAS BUILT. IT WAS QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY THE CITY’S FIRST SCHOOL, CHURCH AND NEWSPAPER. IN 1814 THE FIRST STATEHOUSE WAS BUILT – BUT IT’S NOT THE ONE THAT WE USE TODAY, SINCE IT WAS REBUILT IN IN THE 1860’S AFTER A FIRE.

COLUMBUS TOOK OFF PRETTY QUICKLY BUT IT TOOK UNTIL 1834 FOR ENOUGH PEOPLE – 4,000 – TO BE LIVING THERE BEFORE IT COULD BE CONSIDERED A CITY AND NOT JUST A VILLAGE. ITS POPULATION REALLY STARTED TO RISE DURING THE CIVIL WAR WHEN IT SERVED AS A TRAINING BASE FOR UNION SOLDIERS AND AS A PRISON CAMP FOR CAPTURED CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS.
ROADS AND CANALS WERE BUILT TO CONNECT COLUMBUS EVEN MORE TO THE REST OF THE STATE AND THIS HELPED PUSH IT INTO THE ECONOMIC SPOTLIGHT. AFTER THE CIVIL WAR MORE FACTORIES MOVED INTO THE CITY. THEY MADE EVERYTHING FROM BROOMS TO CARRIAGES.

IT GREW AS AN EDUCATIONAL HUB TOO WITH THE FOUNDING OF THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, WHICH IS NOW ONE OF THE LARGEST UNIVERSITIES IN THE NATION.
FROM A PLOT OF EMPTY LAND ON THE SCIOTO RIVER TO A BOOMING CAPITAL CITY, COLUMBUS IS NOW A HOME FOR LEARNING, CULTURE, GOVERNMENT – AND MORE THAN 800 THOUSAND PEOPLE!

Instructional Links

Online Reference Book: Ohio History Collection, Columbus, Ohio | History of the city

Website: City of Columbus, Official Site, Visitors | Information on history and sites

Encyclopedia Article: World Book Student, Columbus, Ohio

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