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PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION EXAMINES EARLY COLUMBUS
By CRAIG McDONALD   - 06/01/2006

ThisWeek

The latest installment of the "Images of America" series to focus on central Ohio is Richard E. Barrett's Columbus 1860-1910 (Arcadia, 128 pages, $19.95).

This fine edition opens with the "Civil War Years," then moves through the postwar period, the centennial celebration of 1888 and the final phases of the 19th century. The remainder of the collection then focuses on industrial and business booms that marked the first decade of the 20th century in central Ohio.

The volume concludes with a collection of photos highlighting the early amusement parks that dotted Columbus, chiefly Olentangy Park and Indianola Park.

These last photos depict early versions of roller coasters and water park rides called "Shoot-the-Chutes," in which ride operators are shown standing at the back of the ride behind seated passengers.

Olentangy Park, according to Barrett, was built at the end of the streetcar line in order "to encourage streetcar traffic during the off hours."

Another interesting shot from this portion of the collection is one of Cromwell Dixon, 14, riding his "Sky-cycle," a kind of early dirigible with a bicycle component mounted underneath for steering. The hydrogen-powered vehicle of Dixon's own design only made a few flights over the Olentangy Park, Barrett writes, because of some ensuing disagreements over compensation.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Barrett's collection is the depiction of the striking, gothic-style structures that proliferated around Columbus during the period between 1860 and 1910, and how many of those structures were lost during the early 1970s in a paroxysm of demolition. For a time, Columbus appears to have looked very much like the Gotham City sets in the two Tim Burton Batman films.

The Ohio Centennial Celebration images are also highly interesting, particularly the one of the Centennial Auditorium, a domed wooden structure that was "200 feet in diameter, 86 feet high, and could seat 10,000 persons." According to Barrett, the auditorium was torn down not long after the celebration ended and its components sold for salvage.

cmcdonald@thisweeknews.com




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