City Spotlight: Columbus, OH

By Audrey W. | Arcadia Staff
Modern day Columbus was once part of a large stretch of land known as the Ohio Country. Since its establishment in the early 1800s, Columbus has risen to be the most densely populated city in Ohio. Here, we’re stepping back to when the Ohio Country was first explored, and the steps early settlers took to make it into the thriving city we see today.

A Struggle for Land Ownership

The Ohio Country was originally controlled by the French Empire from 1663 to 1763, when the region was well-known for its fur trading, primarily in racoons and foxes. The fur trade drew a slew of European settlers through the first half of the 18th century.
However, these Europeans weren’t entering unsettled land. Several native tribes called this area home, and as more Europeans moved in, the two sides engaged in frequent confrontations. Fighting for control of the territory rose to its peak during the French and Indian War (1754 - 1763) - a conflict that eventually merged into the international Seven Years’ War. After several years of death, bloodshed, and hardship, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave up the Ohio land to the British Empire.
When the Revolutionary War later ended in 1783, Ohio was part of the Virginia Military District. Colonists from the East Coast slowly migrated inland, but the many indigenous nations, along with scattered encampments of English fur traders, were already occupying the area. These inhabitants fought against the newcomers, but to little avail. The largest battle of the area, the Battle of Fallen Timbers, resulted in the Treaty of Greenville, which helped to pave the way for new English settlements, and the first town was established in 1797.

Here, the original University Hall is shown – this building was razed in 1971 and replaced with a similarly designed building.

A City is Born

 In 1803, Ohio was finally granted statehood, and political leaders disagreed over whether the state capital should be housed in Chillicothe or Zanesville. As a compromise, they decided to build a new city between those locations, where it would serve as a key transportation route.
Columbus, Ohio was subsequently founded on February 14, 1812, and the Borough of Columbus, the city’s first law-making body, was established in 1816. Nine people were elected to fill various roles like Mayor, Treasurer, and others, with Jarvis W. Pike serving as the town’s first mayor.
Throughout the early 1800s, Columbus saw a wave of European immigrants, primarily from Germany and Ireland, who were taking advantage of the less expensive prices of the land surrounding the city. The population soared to 3,500 people, and in 1834, Columbus was officially chartered as a city.
The rest of the 19th century saw humongous change for Columbus. In 1850, two railroads leading into Columbus were constructed: the Columbus and Xenia Railroad. Both helped increase the size and economic traffic of the city. One year later, railroads were built that connected Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. By 1875, eight railroads served Columbus. And during the Civil War, the city was a primary base for volunteer soldiers in the Union army, housing 26,000 troops and holding 9,000 Confederate soldiers prisoner at Camp Chase. By the end of the 1800s, Columbus had seen a boom in many areas, including in the manufacturing business. Thanks to two dozen buggy factories, Columbus became known as the “Buggy Capital of the World.”

The Wyandotte Building, Columbus’ first skyscraper.

The nationwide movement to construct interstates in the mid-20th century rapidly changed the landscape of Columbus, allowing it to spread outward and develop its suburban areas. By the early 1990s, Columbus was Ohio’s largest city. The 1970s saw the construction of some of today’s iconic landmarks: The National City Band building, Nationwide Plazas, the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and the Scioto Mile, a park developed along the riverfront. Historic Union Station and the Neil House Hotel were built upon to accommodate for more office space.
In recent years, Columbus has grown exponentially - an unusual feat for a midwestern city. It’s the 14th largest city in the United States and grew 10 percent between 2010 and 2017. As a major player in economic innovation and progressive movements, it has had a unique role in the development of America as a country. Columbus has made a name for itself as a flexible and evolving city, which always has something new for visitors to explore.

A Columbus Gallery

On your next visit to Columbus, take a moment to check out some of the sites we’ve featured here!

Ohio State University’s football stadium in 1922.

During World War I, Columbus held a parade of the 37th division that cross the corner of Broad and High.

The Great Southern Fireproof Hotel is pictured above shortly after its opening.

Downtown Columbus, near Broad and High streets, in 1922.