Today's illustration pairs two similar but not identical photos of the heart of Columbus.

The photos were taken in the warm months and look south on High Street from Chestnut Street, roughly where One Nationwide Plaza is today.

Because the simultaneous images are as interesting as their subject matter, we will talk about them first.

From the 1850s to the 1930s, the imagination of much of the civilized world was captured by an innovation called stereoscopic vision. If two pictures were made of the same subject from slightly different angles and then merged by a viewer, the effect gave a three-dimensional quality to the combined image.

The technique was an ancient one and had been used with drawings for some time. But the advent of photography with Fox Talbot in England and Daguerre in France in the 1820s and 1830s meant that now the two images could be much more detailed while still being three-dimensional.

Early forms of stereoptical projection were elaborate and expensive, but by the 1850s, inexpensive handheld viewers made 3-D imagery available to most people.

Among his other accomplishments, American author and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes patented a simple and inexpensive handheld stereoscopic viewer in 1861. From that point on, stereo viewers could be found in most American households. Photographers traveled to all parts of the world to bring the wonders of other places to people wishing to see the world in 3-D in their living rooms.

With the advent of the View-Master handheld stereoscopic viewer in 1939, people could and still can see something of their world in three dimensions.

Although much of the interest in stereoscopic vision was in seeing other parts of the world, many photographers also saw a market in making stereo views of places closer to home.

In our image, it is 1880 and Ohio's capital city is growing in size and population. A created city, Columbus grew quite slowly at first from its founding in 1812. By 1831, after almost 20 years of established settlement, the population still was only about 2,000 people.

Then, with the arrival of the National Road and the Ohio and Erie Canal, the population more than doubled in two years. By 1834, Columbus was a city of 5,000 people.

This pattern of slow but consistent growth punctuated by periods of rapid expansion would be repeated. By 1861, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, the population of Columbus was about 18,000 but was increasing rapidly by the end of the conflict.

The completion of the Hocking Valley Railroad brought immense quantities of cheap iron, wood and coal to Columbus. With these resources and new people coming to the city from abroad and from rural America, Columbus was an industrial and commercial city by 1880 with a population of more than 50,000 people when the picture was taken.

Looking at the picture today, we might first wonder, "Where is everybody?" The short answer is that they are probably at home in bed.

Although photography had made significant advances from the 15-minute exposure times of the 1830s, shutter speeds remained slow. This meant that if people did not stand still, they emerged as ghostly shadows in the pictures of this period.

In addition, the black cloud of coal smoke that usually hung over cities was at its least apparent in the morning. This led photographers to shoot street scenes shortly after dawn on Sunday mornings.

The picture shows us a city growing rapidly. A photo taken only 20 years earlier in 1861 would have depicted houses along much of High Street. Now they have been replaced by commercial buildings -- three, four and even five stories tall. They were no taller than that because most people would not walk up much more than a few flights of stairs to do business in a time before elevators.

In 1860, there were no streetcar lines in Columbus. In the photo, two sets of tracks wend their way up High Street -- the one turning east to reach new homes being constructed at the "edge" of the city near its eastern boundary at Parsons Avenue.

Streetlights can be seen every half-block on both sides of High Street. The lights are about 7 feet tall and throw soft yellow light only a short distance. This explains why they are so close together and are no taller in height. Brighter lights would not be part of the urban landscape for some time.

In the distance, the Ohio Statehouse is visible. The dome of the Statehouse is -- as it would be for some time -- the most impressive building in town.

In many ways, it still is.

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