Columbus celebrates Valentine’s birthday as capital metropolis


The 209th anniversary of Columbus’ founding as the capital of Ohio is February 14th, which is of course Valentine’s Day.

It was never determined whether the Ohio General Assembly knew or cared about St. Valentine.

I suspect they didn’t.

It was a difficult time for the new state. British forts still controlled access to major rivers along the south shore of Lake Erie. It was pretty clear that a second war with Great Britain for control of the land of Ohio was coming.

And in the midst of these difficulties, the Ohio General Assembly looked for a new home.

Ed Lentz

On the occasion of Columbus’ birthday, it’s a story worth retelling.

When Ohio became a state, the first state capital was in Chillicothe, as the village was home to several of the state’s founders, including Edward Tiffin, its first governor, and his brother-in-law, politician and statesman Thomas Worthington.

Every morning Worthington could stand on the porch of his hill house called Adena and find that the first statehouse was nearby.

The state capital remained in Chillicothe until 1808 when it was relocated to Zanesville for a short period before returning to Chillicothe. In many of those early years, several members of the General Assembly had persistently asked for the capital to be brought closer to the center of the state.

In response to these concerns, the Ohio General Assembly did what it sometimes did when faced with a problem that was not easy to solve: it appointed a committee to investigate the problem and recommend a solution.

The three-person committee rode out into the Ohio wilderness and looked at many places that wanted to become the capital. The border villages of Circleville and Newark showed interest, as did Delaware and Worthington.

The committee returned and reported on its recommendation to move the state capital on a high ridge along the Scioto River known as Sells Plantations. It would later become the village of Dublin.

And, as was the case on occasion, the Ohio General Assembly ignored its committee’s recommendation and chose another location.

The location they chose was High Banks across from Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto. It was also called “Wolf’s Ridge”. The land on the west bank of the Scioto, where the village of Franklinton was founded in 1797, was part of the Virginia Military District and home to pioneer surveyor and city planner Lucas Sullivant.

The land on the east bank of the river was part of another land grant called the Refugee Tract that was reserved for Nova Scotia residents who lost property during the American Revolution. The recipients of the Refugee Tract rarely came to Ohio. They sold their land grants, and the land itself from Fifth Avenue in the north to Refugee Road in the south generally remained unsettled.

It was a thickly forested ridge dominated by a 40 foot high Native American hill where Mound Street and High Street are now located.

This land was bought by four men who called themselves owners. Her offer to the Ohio General Assembly was 10 acres for a statehouse, which is now the statehouse, and 10 acres for a prison which is now the Cultural Arts Center in the old armory.

They also offered $ 50,000 – an immense sum in those days – to clear the land and build buildings. The owners would earn their living selling urban land in the new state capital.

On February 14, 1812, the Ohio General Assembly accepted the offer. A few days later, at the urging of the local representative Joseph Foos, the congregation chose Columbus as the name of the new capital. Joel Wright, a skilled surveyor, was selected to design the new town and was assisted by local surveyor Joseph Vance.

Wright laid out a city with wide streets that formed a long rectangle angled a few degrees west of true north. The northern limit of the new city was North Public Lane (now Nationwide Boulevard). South Public Lane was soon called Livingston Avenue. The eastern limit of the new city is now Parsons Avenue.

The first sale of land in the new town took place on June 18, 1812. It was the same day the United States went to war against Britain. Regardless of this, work on the city continued and when the war ended there was a modest two-story brick statehouse on the corner of State and High Streets.

The Ohio General Assembly first met in Columbus in 1816 and has been meeting there ever since.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.