As It Were: Artist's eyes filtered aerial view of downtown Columbus

ED LENTZ
Columbus is shown in an 1854 depiction, created by an artist who imagined a bird's-eye view of the downtown area. The artist "completed" the unfinished Statehouse and added a wooded area where the Old North Graveyard stood.
Ed Lentz

Today's picture is one of my favorite renditions of Columbus.

I like this picture not only for its quality as a piece of art but also for its ability to show us a small town rapidly becoming a capital city.

This picture of Columbus from the air was published in 1854. Since there were no airplanes and precious few hot-air balloons in those days, one might wonder how the picture was made.

The short answer is: laboriously.

In this case, a small firm called E. Sachse & Co. did the legwork. Careful but quick sketches were made of every building in the town by walking the streets and byways of the city. Then the artist returned to his dwelling and imagined what all of those buildings might look like from several hundred feet in the air.

Finally, the bird's-eye view was drawn, with people, trees and shrubs filling in the empty spaces.

Sometimes a little creative imagination was needed, as well. In 1854, the new Ohio Statehouse had been under construction for 15 years and was still not complete. With a little artistic license, the artist went ahead and completed the building. The actual Statehouse did not end up quite like this -- but it was close.

The result was a large, poster-size color image of the city, looking south toward town from what is now the Short North.

In the foreground, near High Street, is a large brick building with a bell tower belching smoke for no discernible reason. This is the home of Capital University.

The university had opened in 1850 on land donated by Dr. Lincoln Goodale, a practicing physician and early settler in the area.

The good doctor soon discovered he could make more money running a general store than he could as a physician.

Acquiring land north of the city limits at what is now Nationwide Boulevard, Goodale offered Capital a site for its school and several acres to the city for a public park.

A bust of the doctor still stands at the entrance to Goodale Park. Capital University moved to what is now Bexley but was then farmland in 1876.

To the left of the university is the first railroad station and adjacent service buildings. The Columbus and Xenia Railroad had arrived in central Ohio in 1850, and by 1854, the station was busy.

Columbus had been a center of transportation and trade since the arrival the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Road in the 1830s. Between 1840 and 1850, the population of the city had tripled to almost 18,000. In the decade that followed, the arrival of railroads stabilized that population with even more growth to follow in the decade of the 1860s and the Civil War.

Looking a bit farther south, we can see woods immediately south of Capital University. In reality, no wooded area was there. Instead, immediately across High Street from the railroad station was the Old North Graveyard.

On land donated by one of the original "proprietors" of Columbus, John Kerr, the cemetery was on high but swampy ground just north of the original city limits. Kerr was the second mayor of Columbus, and he and Jarvis Pike, the first mayor, were buried there.

The Old North Graveyard saw most of its graves moved elsewhere in the 1870s when the site became the home of the North Market.

The North Market still thrives at the spot. The graves of the first two mayors presumably remain there.

Looking down toward Statehouse Square, one can see that Columbus in 1854 remained a small town. What is now the central business district was filled with the small homes and cottages of settled residents and new arrivals. The original settlers had built homes near the Statehouse and along Front Street, with fashionable homes facing the river.

The 1830s and 1840s had seen the arrival of a large number of immigrants from Europe in general and Ireland and Germany in particular.

The Irish had settled on the north side of downtown. North Public Lane is now Nationwide Boulevard. In the 1850s, it came to be known as Irish Broadway.

On the other end of town was South Public Lane, which today is called Livingston Avenue. South of that street, a large German community stretched past Stewart's Grove, which later became Schiller Park.

Closely linked to a rapidly changing society, German Columbus remained a world of its own.

It was a time when communities of differing origins were becoming the capital city of the state of Ohio.

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