Photo Date: November 1, 1914 Location: 136 E. Broad Street
The photo shows the ongoing excavation of the Columbus Athletic Club. It was conceived a few years prior as a social club in 1912 by a group of wealthy Columbus businessmen. The organization was originally housed in the Atlas Building at Gay and High, but wanted their own building. Construction began in early 1914 and the 6-story building was dedicated in 1915. The 100-year-old institution, now on the National Register of Historic Places, looks pretty much the same as it did when it was first built, and it remains a private club to this day. Over the years, the club has had many prominent members, including politicians and even a president, Warren G. Harding.
The Hippodrome Theater
Operated from October 26th, 1914 to December 31st, 1933.
Address: 77 N. High Street, Downtown
First movie shown: “The Nightingale” with Ethel Barrymore
Last movie shown: Unknown
Opening Admission: 10 cents
Photo of the entrance to the Hippodrome Theater, 1915.
The silent-era Hippodrome Theater was developed by G.E. Overton, who took over the Bonnett Jewelry store that occupied the building previously. News articles at the time of its opening described the décor in this way:
The little theater, which seats over 300, is neatly decorated in yellow. The lobby is attractive in white marble and the foyer is in yellow and gold. There is no stage; the picture being projected against a large screen as in most picture theaters.
The Hipp, as it was referred by, had a 6-piece orchestra under the direction of W.H. Claspill. It was the first movie theater in Columbus to have an orchestra.
There seems to be a bit of confusion on just when this theater opened. The official first movie shown there was in 1914, but by some accounts, the theater actually opened in April, 1910. Also, there is some mystery on the lone photograph above. Some list it as having been originally taken in 1915, but others have it listed from 1934, after the theater had closed.
The Park Theater
Operated until November 24, 1893. The date it opened is unknown.
Address: 217 N. High Street, Downtown
The Park Theater began operations sometime in the 1880s or very early 1890s, and may have operated long after 1893 if not for a disaster from the building just to its south, the Chittenden Hotel. In 1889, Henry Chittenden purchased the office building of the B&O Railroad, added 2 floors and spent $400,000 (an enormous sum at the time) converting and renovating the building into a luxury hotel. In 1890, a fire broke out and gutted the entire building, but spared neighboring businesses like the Park Theater.
The second Chittenden Hotel. The Park Theater building can be seen on the very right. The photo is from 1892.
Chittenden decided to rebuild, and the 2nd Chittenden Hotel was completed in 1892. This second hotel had its own theater, the Henrietta, which was still partially under construction on November 24th, 1893. That evening at around 8pm, a fire started during a performance there. The fire originated in the auditorium, in an area that was still under construction and spread into the seating area itself. Once the flames breached the theater, strong winds quickly spread the fire and began to burn the hotel as well as surrounding buildings, including the one that housed the Park Theater. By the time the fire burned itself out just the next morning, both theaters, the hotel, a drug store, saloon, shoe house and clothing shop were all completely destroyed.
The second Chittenden and Park Theater, November 1893.
The Park Theater, November 25th, 1893.
Improbably, despite 2 hotels in the same locating burning down, Chittenden rebuilt for yet a 3rd time, with the largest and grandest version of all- not to mention with far better fire-resistant construction. The third time, it seems, was the charm, and the hotel survived from its completion in 1895 to its final demolition in 1973.
The unlucky Park Theater itself never rebuilt, though the lot had a new commercial building in its spot by 1895. That building also faced the wrecking ball in 1973.
The current location of where the Chittenden and Park Theater once stood.
To an urbanist, the following sets of photos are truly disturbing. I’ve heard it said many times over that Columbus is a new city filled with suburban design, and that it never really had a true urban, historic core. The sad thing is that that is dead wrong, and I say it’s sad because so much of it was lost in the name of progress. 99 years ago, Downtown was truly a beautiful, vibrant place, and the present-day shots only serve to make the transformation all that much more awful. You have to wonder what people were thinking in terms of design and the way that they systematically destroyed the environment that made the city what it was.
In any case, the photo set from 1914 was apparently taken by a photographer that walked the length of High Street starting from the intersection of Town Street all the way up to Goodale Avenue at the beginning of the Short North. They are some of the best historic photographs I’ve ever seen of Downtown Columbus. Let’s begin the tour.
Taken near the intersection of Town Street and High Street- 1914.
The photo above at Town and High shows Lazarus Department Store on the left. It is one of the few buildings that remains today, as shown below.
Town and High, present day.
The next set is the before and after from Capital Square, just south of the Broad and High intersection. The tall building in the center of the photo is 8 E. Broad and one of the few still standing today.
Capital Square, 1914
Capital Square in the present day.
The next few photographs show the very heart of Downtown, the intersection of Broad and High. A few buildings remain, but most is gone.
The intersection of Broad and High Streets.
Next is High Street just north of Broad and looking north. Notice just how many buildings are gone.
Up next is the intersection of Long and High, just south of the Atlas building (on the right). The Atlas Building still exists and is in the process of renovation. There are also a few buildings across the street that survived. Few others did.
For the 2nd to last set, we have the intersection of Spring and High. The old Chittenden Hotel is the large building on the left with the Lyceum Theater behind it. Most of these buildings were torn down to make room for the Nationwide complex in the 1980s. There is literally not a single building from 1914 still standing in this area.
And finally, we have the intersection of Goodale Avenue and High Street. This before and after shows a drastic transformation. Many of the buildings in the photo, including the building with the beautiful domed rotunda, were demolished to clear the right of way for the construction of I-670. Others succumbed due to the Convention Center’s construction or the Greek Orthodox Church’s expansion in the 1980s. There is only one point of reference to know this is the same place. If you look closely, just past the building with the rotunda and to the right, you can just make out the roofline of the Yukon Building. It is the first line of buildings to survive north of 670 and begins what is now known as the Short North. To me, this is the most tragic photo of all. Like so many cities, Columbus had incredible architecture in abundance, and the leaders in the middle part of the 20th century squandered it all away, leaving the current generation trying to rebuild a divided, empty shell of what once was. Much of it, however, can never be restored. Let it be a visible reminder that development has real consequences if not followed through wisely.