That hometown pride is evident in questions we receive for WOSU’s Curious Cbus project. You ask the questions and vote for your favorites, and we investigate them. We’ve reported on butter sculptures, streetcars, the ZIP code 43210, Mound Street and more.
In celebration of Columbus’ birthday, we compiled five quick Curious Cbus questions about the city for a lightning-round-style round-up, plus a bonus question. For stories about some Columbus hidden gems, watch this week’s episode of Columbus Neighborhoods, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 on WOSU TV.
1. Why was Columbus picked as the capital of Ohio? —Ray LaVoie
Before Columbus existed, surveyor Lucas Sullivant founded a village named Franklinton on the west bank of the Scioto River in 1797.
Chillicothe served as the first capital city of Ohio from 1803 to 1816, with the exception of two years. In 1810, the capital was moved to Zanesville, the county seat of Muskingum County, for—why else?—political reasons. Democratic-Republicans (Thomas Jefferson’s party) wanted to lay claim to eastern Ohio, hence the eastward move.
Then in 1816, the Ohio General Assembly started searching for a capital near the center of the state.
Four men—Lyne Starling (Sullivant’s brother-in-law), John Kerr, James Johnston and Alexander McLaughlin—came together to offer the legislature a plan for a capital city: 10 acres for a statehouse, 10 acres for a penitentiary and $50,000 to erect buildings on the other side of the Scioto River, across from Franklinton.
The legislature accepted the proposal on Feb. 14, 1812. One week later, they named the new capital city Columbus.
2. John Glenn was the ninth person to lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse. Who else has lay in state at the Statehouse? —Anonymous
On Dec. 16, 2016, visitors flocked to the Ohio Statehouse to pay their respects to astronaut and longtime U.S. Senator John Glenn as he lay in repose in the rotunda.
Terminology here is key. While government officials “lie in state” in the U.S. Capitol Building, they “lie in repose” elsewhere.
“The only place someone can lie in state is the U.S. Capital, and that can only be done as an act of of the federal government,” says Luke Stedke, deputy director of communications and marketing for the Statehouse.
This tradition of honoring public figures is a rarity. Glenn was only the ninth person to lay in repose at the Ohio Statehouse. Here are the other eight, according to Statehouse records:
3. How did Columbus get the nickname “Cowtown”? —Haley D. Vest
“Cowtown” is sometimes used as a derogatory term to describe a “hick” small town, but Columbus came by the nickname honestly. Around the turn of the 20th century, Columbus was home to the largest cattle farm in the world, Hartman Stock Farm.
Founder Samuel Hartman became famous for his Peruna tonic. He used the profits from those sales to build the farm, a 3,000-acre plot that also included a resort and a schoolhouse, on South High Street. Hartman also built a theater, a factory and two hotels in what’s now downtown.
4. Why does the capitol building not have a dome like those in most other states? —Theresa Huston
The Ohio Statehouse was built between 1839 and 1861, based on a combination of designs from multiple architects. Likewise, while the architectural style is often described as Greek Revival, the final design incorporated some Roman architectural elements as well.
“The dome is Roman; the cupola is Greek,” says Luke Stedke of the Statehouse. “So it’s kind of a mix-match of the two architectures. The best way to explain it is a half an egg with a tin can on top.”
In 2015, Broad & High took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the top of the statehouse.
5. How many “neighborhoods” are there in Columbus? —Shari Veleba
Long story short, it depends who you ask and how you define “neighborhood.” For example, Columbus has several neighborhoods within neighborhoods, like Beechwold, which is located in the northwest corner of Clintonville.
Even the city of Columbus has a hard time pinpointing the number of neighborhoods.
“Depending on who you talk to, there could be 28 or 300,” says Robin Davis, director of media relations. “So we don’t have a list of neighborhoods we officially recognize.”
Perhaps the most comprehensive resource is this map, which shows 279 civic associations, subdivisions, neighborhoods, planning areas commissions and areas outside of Interstate 270 (with about 250 of those inside I-270).
Aaron O’Donovan and intern Kim Siphengpheth of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Local History department created the map last year, based on civic associations reports and other research, and have since continued to update it.
Bonus: Who originally began German Village? —Tracey Smith
To be serious though, between 1820 and 1920, more than 30 million Europeans immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. German immigrants in Columbus established a community by purchasing cheap land to the south of the city limits, creating “Die Alte Sud Ende” (the Old South End). These newcomers to Columbus were particularly successful in the brewing industry. By 1865, one-third of Columbus’ population was German.
For the full story, watch WOSU’s “Columbus Neighborhoods: German Village” documentary.
Nick Houser contributed reporting to this article.
Unique Columbus Neighborhoods Preview
On the next episode of Columbus Neighborhoods, we’ll take a look at some of the truly unique Columbus neighborhoods, including Baby Farms and a small community struggling to find its identity. Plus, meet Bhim Bastola, a Nepalese-Bhutanese refugee who is a grocery-store owner and community activist. Watch at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 on WOSU TV.