Columbus in 1872 was well on its way to becoming more than a city in name only. Today's illustration shows exactly how the new urban place was coming into being.

Columbus in 1872 was well on its way to becoming more than a city in name only. Today's illustration shows exactly how the new urban place was coming into being.

A little explanation is in order about cities in the Midwest in the 1800s and Columbus in particular.

Founded to be the capital of Ohio in 1812, Columbus grew slowly at first. The borough of Columbus was formed in 1816. At the time, the population of the frontier capital city was about 700 people.

Columbus officially became a city in 1834 in the wake of the arrival of the Ohio Canal and the National Road. To become a city in those days -- just as it is today -- a place needed a population of 5,000 people. Columbus in 1834 was not what one would call a booming metropolis.

By the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Columbus had gotten considerably bigger, with much of the growth due to the arrival of large numbers of German and Irish immigrants. All of this -- and the arrival of a railroad or two -- resulted in 18,000 people living in Columbus as the War Between the States broke out.

Between 1850 and 1860, the population of Columbus had grown only by 3 percent. All of that changed with the Civil War. Undoubtedly, the presence of 26,000 Union troops and more than 10,000 Confederate prisoners of war at Camp Chase on the Far West Side contributed to the growth of the city. In any case, the population of Columbus in 1870 was 31,274 people -- a 68 percent increase over the course of the decade. That growth would continue through the 1870s, and by 1880, the population of Columbus was 51,647.

The capital city was a city indeed.

Much of that dynamic growth and change is captured in the bird's-eye view with today's column. Dated 1872, the illustration looks at Columbus from the southwest to the northeast as if one were flying over the city at the height of roughly 500 feet.

One may wonder how the artist came to be 500 feet over the city in an age before aircraft other than balloons. The answer is that the artist was never up in the air at all.

Bird's-eye views such as the one we see here were created by an artist -- or more likely a small group of artists -- wandering the streets of the city and sketching every building they encountered. The artist then returned to the studio to create the finished drawing.

The result tells us a lot about the emerging city that a simple map or sketch could not. To the north, it's clear the impact of the arrival of railroads to the city in 1850 was profound. The city grew to the north and whole new neighborhoods sprung up. The area had a large Irish population, and by 1850 the street we today call Nationwide Boulevard loosely was referred to as "Irish Broadway."

To the south of the downtown area, the German community had become quite large after beginning its expansion from Livingston Avenue. The Brewery District along the river employed dozens of workers, but most of the residents of the "Sud End" or South End were employed by the many small businesses in the neighborhood.

Plagued by recurrent flooding, the original Franklinton village on the near west side of the river appears to be almost empty compared to the rest of Columbus. Many people refused to live in a flood plain, leaving the West Side to the factories and businesses unaffected by an occasional inundation.

The biggest changes took place in and around Statehouse Square. As late as 1860, most of the square was surrounded on three side by the homes of the politically prominent or economically powerful. Few people lived more than a few blocks from where they worked and shopped. Columbus was a "walking city."

By 1872, that was no longer true. Horse-drawn streetcars appeared on High Street in 1863 and, by 1872, streetcar lines moved away from downtown in every direction. An easterly streetcar line reached the site of Lunatic Asylum on East Broad Street. After a spectacular fire in 1868, the decision was made to abandon the place. The empty ground was acquired and soon became the fashionable East Park Place Addition. It was the place to live in 1872.

The streetcar suburbs that began to appear were a response to the growth of the central business district and the replacement of houses downtown with office buildings and shops.

With shops, theaters and a nightlife that never ended, Columbus by 1872 was a capital city in every sense of the phrase.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.