Columbus – December 2015 – COSI and a Tour of Unique Downtown buildings

The last vacation of the day brought us downtown to see a few places that are always closed on weekends, plus visit one that is usually too crowded with kids on weekends.

The Ohio Supreme Court building on Front Street was built in the 1930s in a classic Art Deco style, and the interior still is a very nice example of this period. The early-1930s-era building, which features an art deco main concourse and a lavishly painted and decorated courtroom, we repurposed in 2004 for the Supreme Court.

Once you pass through security you are greeted with marble floors, ornate grill work on the heating vents, and soaring concourses that bring you to the elevators with their raised reliefs. The main courtroom off of this concourse is stunning in it’s ornateness. The ceiling has a number of murals in what appear to gold flaked frames, complimented by the Frank Lloyd Wright looking lights. Even the water fountains are stunning, formed out of granite with ‘OHIO’ carved above.

2015 12 09 26 Ohio Supreme Court Building.jpg


The stairwells have additional murals out of tile. Once on the lower level you are greeted by a ceiling that has more tile artwork. The lower level also houses a small museum detailing government in Ohio, and how the legal branch works within.

We took the elevator to the 11th floor law library, primarily for the views out of the windows of downtown, the riverfront and COSI, but were pleasantly surprised to see this floor, while not as ornate as the lobby, was still impressive with the wooden ceilings and tasteful carpets. Also present for the season was a 10′ ‘Christmas tree’ made out of law books. After admiring the views out the windows we headed on with the solid belief that this building is truly a hidden treasure of Columbus.

2015 12 09 33 Ohio Supreme Court Building.jpg


A block away is the Vern Riffe State Office Tower, a 503′ tower built in 1988. We were able to go to one of the upper floors that had public areas, but the windows we could get to were small, and with the overcast day provided little in photography opportunities, so we returned to the lobby where there is a small art gallery. The eclectic exhibit contained pieces made out of material such as networking cable and other non tradition items.

2015 12 09 66 Riffe Tower.jpg


We moved on to the former Lazarus Department Store building, now the home of a number of entities including the Ohio State University Urban Arts Center. They too had an eclectic collection, including a bunch of sculptures of monkey heads hanging  in rope baskets from the ceiling.

2015 12 09 85 Ohio State Urban Arts Center.jpg


Our next stop was COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, located in the former Central High School building on the west bank of the Scioto River. As with most places like this they are usually filled with kids, but we chose a weekday that school was out of session for the holidays so it was very quiet.

The first display was showing the use of electricity in every day life. Next door was – a Lego display – keeping with our winter tradition. COSI’s display had famous landmarks of the world; San Francisco Cable Car, a Zeppelin, Space Shuttle, a 747, the Queen Mary ship, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, and more.

On the upper level we found a very nice display on the human body with many interactive exhibits including a display of the formation of a baby. The lower level had Main Street USA, an exhibit that COSI has had for almost 50 years, with the fake store fronts, a pay phone (!), and numerous neon signs. A collection of giant butterflies made out of various materials, including old license plates, lined the hallway outside.

Finally there was a display of industry in Ohio illustrating the aviation contributions Columbus has made.

2015 12 09 147 COSI.jpg


As we left COSI I walked over to a building I have long admired, the former Toledo and Central Ohio Railway station. The building was built with a Japanese inspiration (complete with pagoda) with an Art Nouveau twist. When it was built it was next door to a hotel, the Macklin, that had been built in the same style. Unfortunately the Macklin was torn down in the 1950s.

Not long after it was built the railroad was raised and the street level lowered so an underpass could be built, which exists to this day, essentially blocking the view of the building from the west. As we were checking the building out from the outside someone opened the door and asked if he could help us. When I explained we loved the building and was just taking some photos, he invited us in.

It turns out after the building was abandoned and damaged by fire the (ironically) firefighters union obtain ownership, and with the assistance of a grant, restore the building. The interior is interesting, but overwhelmed by the exterior to the extent it makes the interior seem somewhat bland. Having had a very full December day we headed home.

2015 12 09 163 Former Toledo & Central Ohio Station.jpg