Local history at the Main Library
We had a great time at the newly re-opened Main Library in downtown Columbus last night. They have a large room on the third floor devoted to local history, and we were just barely able to scratch the surface of all the available materials.
Here are some bits and pieces of what we discovered.
The city of Columbus was officially chartered as a city on March 3, 1834. They city had 3500 citizens and there was $90.75 in the treasury vault. By 1835 Columbus was $11,000 in debt and 1836 didn’t go much better.
The Lazarus department store company was started in 1851. Fourteen years later, Simon Lazarus (or perhaps his employees) anticipating the rise of ready-to-wear menswear, imported hundreds of suits from New York. Shortly thereafter, the number of working tailors in Columbus dropped from two hundred to ten.
Among the most interesting of the library’s local history holdings is the collection of maps, some almost 150 years old. On one of these maps, we found the former location of the W.J. Eyerman Slaughterhouse, on Hanford St., near what is now Moeller Park in Marion Village.
An article from March 4, 1906, describes two historic houses, each part of the Underground Railroad. The pictured house was at 188 East Town St., the other was at Third and Long. Neither house exists anymore. The story also relates the famous case of Rosetta Armstead, an enslaved woman who hid the attic of the Town St. house for two weeks.
An issue of Columbus magazine from 1925 advertises a conference of movie men in Columbus, including an ad for “Moving Pictures made to order.” Apparently the push for Columbus to make movie a significant part of its economy started almost 100 years ago.
Columbus has long been known as Test City, USA, and the library is full of market research aimed at businesses, much of it published by the Columbus Dispatch. A 1930 pamphlet describes Columbus as “a well-balanced body of American citizens.” A thorough 1954 report revealed to surprising statistics. Of survey Columbusites (Columbuians?) 75% chose to do their non-grocery shopping downtown. And most bought the majority of their books through the mail.
The 1972 version, titled “Columbus, What’s in It for You?” answers the question directly on page one: “Nearly 1,000,000 shoppers.” The same issue calls Columbus “the accessible island,” and references the Test City, USA moniker, proclaiming, “testing is believing!”
We located the first issues of Columbus Monthly magazine, from 1980. The cover is headlined “Will Victorian Village Make it?” and features a long article about local legend Elijah Pierce.
A large and mysterious feature of the local history section includes shelf upon shelf of bins filled with clippings about notable Columbus residents (and former residents.) Another, not so mysterious section, features rows and rows of books about Buckeye football.
My favorite discovery of the evening was from a 1979 publication called “Columbus, We’re Making it Great.” The magazine features a long poem about the capital city, which begins with these lines.
I celebrate myself… my quiet wonders
A community… so little known
I’m an unusual place… confident – not smug
Old as the East… new as the West
Columbus… a pleasant, growing city.
How' bout that poem? Do you think it still fits? Of all the words chosen (by committee no doubt) to sit on this opening page, how did “pleasant” make the cut?