Central Ohio Transportation History Through Historical Markers – July 2020

As you travel around Ohio you will often see historical markers – there are 1700 of them scattered throughout the state. Using sound caution during these challenging times I spent a couple of hours running around the area finding markers that highlight the history of transportation in Central Ohio. This allowed me to start again the photo efforts, as well as history research, while avoiding people.

 

The National Road

Ohio was still wilderness in the late 1700s, inhabited by only Native Americans. When the Europeans arrived and started to push west from the eastern seaboard the state was one of the first destinations. The primary route for many of these settlers was the National Road.

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In Ohio the National Road started on the western end of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River. (this historic marker is from West Virginia)

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Initially it was just a trail through the countryside. This non paved alley in a small Ohio town is the exact location of the trail.

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The National Road had mile markers indicating how far you were from Cumberland, Maryland, the eastern terminus.

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A number of the famed ‘S’ bridges were along the route. This one dates from the early days of the automobile.

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This S Bridge dates from the pre-automotive days.

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Of course as soon as you have people and transportation someone is going to go off course.

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Canals

Not long after the National Road was first completed the canals started to be built. This transportation mode was the primary driver that lead Ohio to become the the 3rd most populated state by 1840, a position it would hold until Illinois passed it in 1900.

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The canals opened up the interior of the state with connections to the Great Lakes and the Ohio River.

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In addition to the main canals, there were ‘feeder canals’ branching off to spur industrial development.

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The little village of Lockville has 3 locks in a short distance, as well as a vintage covered bridge that would’ve once crossed it.

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The city of Groveport has restored their lock.

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The town of Lockbourne is proud of their canal and lock heritage, although their one lock could us a bit of attention.

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Trains

The canals had their heyday until the trains became prevalent in the 1850s.

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While the mainline trains carried commerce and passengers across the state and beyond, Ohio became a center for the ‘Interurban’.

The Interurban served as a local transportation option between cities closely aligned, essentially the same as today’s commuter rail systems.

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The map below shows how extensive the interurban network was in the state.

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As one of the larger cities in the state, Columbus was a hub for the interurban transportation.

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The line going south out of the city was known as the Scioto Valley Interurban.

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Amazingly it had a third rail in the countryside (providing the power from a rail in the ground, not overhead wires).  You would think that a number of cows became instant steaks by stepping on these…

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The rails are still part of a street in the town of Groveport.

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Canal Winchester has restored their Interurban station as a community center.

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While nearby the town had a mainline train station.

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Airports

While the Wright Brothers were the first developers of the airplane in nearby Dayton in the first decade of the 1900s, it took until 1923 for Columbus to have it’s first permanent air field.

It was named Norton Field, and as the historical marker indicates, was named after a Columbus native and World War I casualty John Norton. The opening was attended by Eddie Rickenbacker (more below on Eddie).

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The field was located east of the city, just south of the current airport.

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It was used primarily by the military, and was shut down as suburbia reached the area in the 1950s. Today the only reminder of it’s history (other than the marker) is the park in the neighborhood.

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Just north of Norton Field is John Glenn Columbus International Airport, whose airport code is CMH – Columbus Metropolitan Hangar – the original name for the field.

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The airport location was selected by Charles Lindbergh as the eastern terminus of the Transcontinental Air Transport. This unique design had passengers travel to Columbus from New York on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

From Columbus the passengers could fly to a town called Waynoka, Oklhoma, where they would again get on a train – this time to Clovis, New Mexico.

In Clovis they would again get on an airplane and fly on to Los Angeles.

The photo below clearly shows how close the train was to the airport. Note the T-A-T airplanes in the foreground – they later merged with Western Air Express to become TWA.

The entire concept was a disaster. In 18 months they lost $2.7m, was involved in the first plane crash on a regular commercial route, and eventually became involved in a scandal known as the Air Mail scandal.

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But the airport survived. This photo looking southwest shows the field.

Norton Field is in the upper left grassy area, and on the center right is the construction of Curtiss-Wright Airplane factory. This factory built military aircraft until the 1988.

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The original terminal sits unused in a distant corner of the airport.

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A sign of the times are a number of currently mothballed aircraft – waiting for travel to return after COVID.

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Eddie Rickenbacker grew up in this modest house on the east side of Columbus. From this start Eddie lead a most eventful life. He was a World War I fighter pilot – race car driver – automobile designer – and pioneer in air transportation, leading Pan Am Airlines.

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Eddie’s name graces the former air force base turned freight airport – Rickenbacker International Airport.

 

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Central Ohio has had a long history of transportation – perhaps a Hyperloop is next…

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Columbus – May 2017 – Historical Markers

The Ohio History Center has arranged for over 1,500 Historical Markers to be erected throughout the state, with over 100 in Franklin County (Columbus) alone. Each of these markers provides a snippet of information about a person, place or activity that took place on or near the marker.

We spent the day wandering around looking for a few that were associated with structures of interest. In the end we visited 12 unique locations.

The text for each photo is the transcription from the marker (thank you Ohio History Center for the signs!)

Worthington Masonic Museum

Worthington was the center of Masonry for the central Ohio area in the early years of the nineteenth century. New England Lodge, with its original charter from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut dated 1803, is the oldest lodge in continuous existence in Ohio. This building, erected in 1820, is the oldest Masonic Temple west of the Allegheny Mountains.

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Groveport Log Home

Built on Main Street, circa 1815, this two story log residence was later sided. In 1974 during new post office site preparation, the log structure was discovered and moved to present location along Ohio-Erie Canal route. In adjoining Groveport Cemetery a monument honors local resident, John S. Rarey (1828-1866), internationally known horse trainer and owner of famous horse, Cruiser.

 

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Canal Winchester Covered Bridge

In March, 1887, the Franklin County Commissioners announced the building of a bridge in Madison Township over Little Walnut Creek at Kramer’s Ford. Area citizens had petitioned for a bridge to transport agricultural products to the canal and railroad. Michael Corbett of Groveport contracted to construct the abutments and the Columbus Bridge Company built the covered bridge for $2,690.00. Reuban L. Partridge, company vice president, supervised the building, using his patented truss system consisting of double and triple truss members constructed of pine and oak. Back Text: In the 1930’s the road traveling over the bridge became State Route 674 and in the 1950s the road was redirected to bypass the covered bridge. In 1990, the county contracted with Abba Lichtenstein & Associates to evaluate the condition of the bridge. The W.J. Seidensticker Company repaired and restored the Bergstresser bridge using original and new materials. This, the last covered bridge in Franklin County, was rededicated September 1, 1991. At this time the ownership of the bridge was transferred to the Village of Canal Winchester.

 

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Grandview Heights – The Bank Block

Built by pioneering retail developer Don Monroe Casto Sr., the Bank Block was dedicated in 1928. Considered one of the earliest regional shopping centers in the United States, it innovatively featured 350 free parking spaces-complete with uniformed attendant-to accommodate the rapidly growing numbers of automobile-owning suburbanites. The Bank Block’s first tenants included several competing national grocers (Kroger, A&P, and Piggly Wiggly), the First Citizens Trust (later Ohio National Bank), a stationer, barber shop, and pharmacy. It remains the nucleus of Grandview’s commercial district. Casto, once described as “the man who changed the shopping habits of the free world,” also built the Town and Country Shopping Center in Whitehall and was a dominant figure in retail commercial development in the Midwest for much of the 20th century.

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Worthington – Orange Johnson House

The original pioneer structure of this house was built by Arora Buttles in 1811. It was purchased by Orange and Achsa Johnson in 1816. Orange Johnson came from Connecticut as a comb maker; he became a farmer, landowner, turnpike commissioner, paymaster for the militia, banker, and railroad stockholder. In 1819 the Federal style addition was constructed on the west side of the pioneer house, and the Johnsons continued to live here until 1863. Restored and owned by the Worthington Historical Society.

 

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Columbus – Original Airport Terminal

The original Port Columbus Airport terminal was founded by the people of Columbus and was one of the first airport facilities in the United States. Dedicated on July 8, 1929, Port Columbus was the first transfer point in the westbound transcontinental passenger service, which was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), and the Santa Fe Railway. Its first passengers departed by rail from New York City on July 7, 1929, and boarded TAT Ford Tri-Motor aircraft at Port Columbus to fly to Waynoka, Oklahoma, the following day. They then traveled by rail to Clovis, New Mexico, and completed their journey with a TAT flight to Los Angeles. The scheduled 48-hour trip was celebrated in Columbus, marking the beginning milestone of national airport travel. (continued on other side) Back Text: (continued from other side) With the nation sinking into the Great Depression, the national air travel venture at Port Columbus was not profitable enough. As a result, the scheduled train-plane operation was suspended and replaced with coast-to-coast air service in 1930. The arrival of mail service at the airport in 1930 helped, as did a huge contract with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1940. Curtiss-Wright leased 83 acres of airport property to produce 6,000 planes, including the SB2C Helldiver and SO3C-1 Seagull aircraft. The federal government took over airport operations in 1941. In 1942 a Naval Air Facility was established adding several new buildings and lengthening runways. This building served as the passenger terminal until the present terminal opened on September 21, 1958.

 

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Columbus – Lincoln Theater

The Lincoln Theatre, originally known as Ogden Theatre Lodge, opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1929. Developer Al Jackson was spurred to build the theatre because African-Americans were segregated from the other area theatres. Among the bands that have played at the Lincoln was the Eckstine Band, which launched the careers of a number of legendary jazz stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughn. The Lincoln Theatre retained a high level of integrity during a period of unequaled African-American cultural, social, and economic strength in Columbus.

 

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Columbus – Toledo and Ohio Central Railroad Station

The only remaining Columbus railroad station, The Toledo & Ohio Central (T&OC) Railroad Station was constructed in 1895 and was the departure point for William McKinley when he left for Washington D.C to be sworn in as president. Designed by noted Columbus architects Joseph Warren Yost & Frank L. Packard, the pagoda style roof and tower have become Columbus icons. By 1900, the T&OC was purchased by the rival Hocking Valley Railroad and in 1911 the tracks were elevated above Broad Street. Later the New York Central Railroad gained control and used the station until 1930 when passenger service was transferred to Union Station in Columbus. Restored after the 1913 Flood and major fires in 1910 and 1975, the station was headquarters for the Central Ohio Volunteers of American from 1930 to 2003. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Back Text: The Macklin Hotel was constructed prior to 1895 and predates the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad Station. It was located adjacent to the station and had three towers and a pagoda style roof matching the depot. The Macklin Hotel was located at 387 W. Broad St. in front of the crystal ice plant which supplied ice to the railroads prior to refrigeration. After the hotel closed, the building was used for several restaurants and cafes until its demolition in 1955.

 

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Grove City – Beulah Park Race Track (Abandonded and mostly demolished)

The origin of Beulah Park Race Track began in 1889 when local businessman A. G. Grant petitioned the village of Grove City to create the Beulah Addition housing development on farmland once owned by town founder William Foster Breck. Grant named the new addition, located west of Harrisburg Pike, in honor of his daughter, Beulah. Grant, whose grandparents ?Hugh and Catherine Grant? were Jackson Township’s first settlers in 1803, added a recreational park to the development to attract potential buyers. The beautifully wooded park attracted visitors who enjoyed picnics, concerts, speeches, and baseball games there. Soon the park was expanded to include a small racetrack on the grounds. Back Text: The new track grabbed the attention of Franklin County Fair officials who held the fair on the site intermittently until 1918 when it was relocated to Hilliard. Shortly thereafter, Colonel James M. Westwater purchased the grounds and added improvements. In 1922, Westwater sold his interest to the Capital City Racing Association and, in 1923, the Association founded Beulah Park ?Ohio’s first Thoroughbred racetrack. The main entrance of the park was located on Grant Avenue, a street named in honor of Jackson Township’s first settlers. In 1931, pari-mutuel wagering commenced under the supervision of the Ohio Racing Commission. In 1983, Beulah Park was the first track in Ohio to offer simulcast wagering on the Kentucky Derby.

 

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One interesting building we came across that did not have a historical marker was the Wagnalls Library in the small town of Lithopolis. This library is a result of Mabel Wagnalls Jones, who was the daughter of Adam Wagnalls, a co-founder of the Funk & Wagnalls Publishing Company.

Built in 1925 it has graced this small town for nearly a century.

 

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While we were in Canal Winchester looking for an Interurban station we came across their Main rail station, along with a couple of restored cabooses. We never did find the Interurban station.

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