Photos from Columbus Christmases Past



Date: 1952
Location: Corner of W. Town Street and S. Ludlow Street along the Scioto River.

Santa and Mrs. Claus ride on a float in the annual Lazarus Christmas parade.

Date: 1980
Location: Ohio Expo Center Multipurpose Building at 717 E. 17th Avenue.

The Festival of Trees was an annual event sponsored by Children’s Hospital and Nationwide for charities. In 1980, there were 82 themed Christmas trees on display, which people could buy for at prices up to $1,000 each.

Date: Christmas Day, 1983
Location: Corner of Ebner and Columbus Street, German Village

Christmas 1983 was one of the coldest on record, with a high of just 1 degree above zero and an average temperature of -6. The cold caused water mains to burst in several locations, including in German Village, which some children took advantage of for a little fun.

Date: 1965
Location: 518 E. Broad Street

State Auto Mutual Insurance began holding a Christmas lighting event every year beginning in 1931.

Date: Around 1955
Location: Lazarus Department Store, South High Street

Lazarus was famous for its window Christmas displays for well over 100 years, with many being very elaborate. The Christmas displays continued until the 2000s.

Date: 1992
Location: Scioto Riverfront, Downtown

The replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, decorated for Christmas in the photo, sat in Battelle Riverfront Park from 1991 until it was permanently dismantled during construction of Scioto Greenways in 2014.



Random Columbus Photos #4



Date Photo Taken: 1989
Photo Location: Looking west on Broad Street from LeVeque Tower.

This photo is interesting for a few reasons. First, it shows the beginning of construction to replace the Broad Street Bridge over the Scioto River. After the Great Flood of 1913 destroyed an earlier Broad Street Bridge, the one in the photo was finished in 1921. By the early 1980s, the bridge was rapidly deteriorating and the decision was made to replace it. It’s reconstruction start, however, was delayed until 1988 due to a contract to keep the Columbus 500 auto race going, which used the bridge. The nearly identical new bridge was completed in 1992 at a cost of $13.2 million.
Across the bridge is the Scioto Peninsula. On the right is Vets Memorial, built in the 1950s and recently demolished to make way for a new memorial and museum as part of the redevelopment of the peninsula. On the left is the old Central High School, years before it was converted into COSI’s new location. Also of note are warehouse and other buildings that still existed on the peninsula, remnants of when this area was largely manufacturing. These were mostly demolished in the 1990s and early 2000s and were left as vacant lots for well over a decade, some of them becoming parking lots for COSI. These lots will soon become part of a large mixed-use development and park.

Random Columbus Photos #4



Date Photo Taken: 1989
Photo Location: Looking west on Broad Street from LeVeque Tower.

This photo is interesting for a few reasons. First, it shows the beginning of construction to replace the Broad Street Bridge over the Scioto River. After the Great Flood of 1913 destroyed an earlier Broad Street Bridge, the one in the photo was finished in 1921. By the early 1980s, the bridge was rapidly deteriorating and the decision was made to replace it. It’s reconstruction start, however, was delayed until 1988 due to a contract to keep the Columbus 500 auto race going, which used the bridge. The nearly identical new bridge was completed in 1992 at a cost of $13.2 million.
Across the bridge is the Scioto Peninsula. On the right is Vets Memorial, built in the 1950s and recently demolished to make way for a new memorial and museum as part of the redevelopment of the peninsula. On the left is the old Central High School, years before it was converted into COSI’s new location. Also of note are warehouse and other buildings that still existed on the peninsula, remnants of when this area was largely manufacturing. These were mostly demolished in the 1990s and early 2000s and were left as vacant lots for well over a decade, some of them becoming parking lots for COSI. These lots will soon become part of a large mixed-use development and park.

The Scioto Peninsula Reborn




The Scioto Peninsula looking east.


The history of the Scioto Peninsula is much the same as the Franklinton neighborhood it resides in. Since Franklinton’s founding in 1797 (Columbus’ oldest neighborhood and predates Columbus itself by 15 years), it did not take long to figure out the area’s one major flaw: Floods. Essentially built upon a river flood plain, Franklinton flooded several times during the 19th century, but the most devastating came in 1913 and 1959. The 1913 flood, Ohio’s deadliest and most widespread natural disaster, inundated Franklinton with up to 20 feet of water in places, and the neighborhood flooded all the way back to where present-day I-70 cuts through the far western border. Franklinton suffered massive damage, and over 100 people died along the Scioto in Columbus. The flood in 1959 was less severe, thanks to flood protections put into place after 1913, but one consequence of this flood was that new construction and most renovation was all but prohibited due to the flood risk. This helped to stagnate the entire neighborhood, and combined with the urban decline for the next several decades, Franklinton gradually fell into disrepair. The Scioto Peninsula, the far eastern section of the neighborhood just across from Downtown, was always the hardest hit by flooding. As such, the 56-acre peninsula gradually became a manufacturing and warehouse site, although a few thousand people did live there in low-income housing projects. Central High School also helped to maintain a residential presence.

As manufacturing declined and more people left the urban core, the warehouses and businesses closed shop. Many were bulldozed into vacant lots. Central High was closed as a school in the early 1980s. By the mid-1990s, the area was largely empty except for Veteran’s Memorial and a handful of housing developments and businesses. Plans were in the works to help bring Franklinton back, however, and construction of the Franklinton Floodwall began at this time. This construction helped encourage COSI to move into Central High, renovating and expanding the old building in exhibit and museum space. Most of the rest of the peninsula became surface parking. In 2004, with the completion of the floodwall, building restrictions were finally lifted, but for several years, little happened. The stigma of a neighborhood in decline kept development interests away.

In 2010, Columbus came out with a list of 12 projects it wanted to accomplish in the downtown area. Some of them have come to pass, such as the renovation of the riverfront with Scioto Mile and the redevelopment of City Center into Columbus Commons. Another one of these projects was the redevelopment of the Scioto Peninsula. The city saw an opportunity in so much empty land so close to Downtown, especially coinciding with the emerging back-to-the-city movement. This prime real estate was ripe. The city began planning of this project early in 2012, as East Franklinton itself began to emerge as an artist destination. The Short North has, more or less, reached the final stage of gentrification. It’s become upscale, attracting high end retail and residential, as the number of art galleries has gradually declined due to rising rents. Franklinton has proven to be an attractive alternative, with such live-work projects as 400 Rich, which grew rapidly in its first year. Residential projects are now in the works, as well as more artist space, warehouse conversions and new bars and restaurants.

General plan for the Peninsula.


A few months back, details of the Peninsula’s redevelopment plan began to trickle out, but the official announcement finally came yesterday. Here is what we now know of the plan:

1. Veterans Memorial, built in 1955 and expanded/renovated a few times over the years, will be torn down and replaced with a new Vets. This new Vets will be of modern design, spiral in shape with glass walls and a rooftop, outdoor amphitheater. Inside will be an Ohio military museum, along with meeting and event space. Estimated costs run around $50 million.
Old Vets Memorial


New Veterans Memorial



2. Southwest of COSI, the Columbus Zoo will build a $50+ million, 50,000 square foot zoo extension. The building will include an aquarium, rainforest, outdoor zoo-themed playground and other exhibits.

3. Where the current COSI parking lots are, a large underground parking garage will be constructed to serve the 3 attractions. Once complete, the garage will be covered by a large central park.
4. While not yet designed and weren’t talked about yesterday, previous details have included elevated walkways connecting all 3 buildings across the peninsula.
5. Between Bell Street and the railroad tracts that run along the western border of the peninsula, a mix of low, mid and high-rise mixed-use buildings will go in. Ground floor retail will line streets while upper floors will be mostly residential. Between 1,000 and 1,200 residential units are planned, but private interests could easily include more given the very high demand for urban residential and the fantastic location with views of Downtown and the river. Estimated costs exceed $100 million.
6. Not included specifically in the peninsula plan, but surely also impacting it, will be the Scioto River itself. Another one of the 12 projects is the removal of low-head dams through Downtown. This will lower the river level through Downtown, creating 33 acres of new land that will be landscaped into park space. Bike paths and walkways will also be constructed on this new land. The river itself will run faster, cleaner and open up more potential recreational uses. This project is set to begin this fall and complete in 2015. Estimated costs for the project are around $25 million.

The Riverfront after reconstruction.

The Riverfront now.

7. After the completion of the river restoration project, another one of the 12 ideas should begin. That will be the construction of a signature pedestrian bridge connecting North Bank Park in the Arena District with the Scioto Peninsula near the new Vets. There are no cost estimates at this time.

So given all this, the Scioto River and the Scioto Peninsula are looking at several hundred million in investment and development over the next several years. This will radically change the riverfront, and has the potential to jumpstart Franklinton, especially eastern parts, in ways not seen in many decades.



In-Planning Project- The Scioto Peninsula



The history of the Scioto Peninsula in not really all that positive. Bounded by 315 to the west and on all other sides by the Scioto River directly across from Downtown, this area currently contains Veteran’s Memorial, COSI and not much else. Even as far back as the 1950s, a large chunk of the peninsula, especially around Central High School (which still exists as COSI), was just vacant land. Otherwise, what existed were warehouse buildings and other commercial buildings. What people lived there were mostly confined to a few public housing projects. Being so close to the Scioto River, the area repeatedly flooded over its history, especially in the Great Flood of 1913 and to a lesser extent in 1959. This prevented much development here and in Franklinton in general. Federal standards were actually in place that banned most new construction or even renovations to most types of buildings. This allowed all of Franklinton, including the Peninsula, to stagnate and go through steady decline.

Help was coming, however, in the form of a giant floodwall. Conceived as far back as the 1980s, the Franklinton Floodwall would not be completed until 2004. It took another 4-5 years before people began to seriously look at the area for redevelopment and then for that development to actually start taking place. Eastern Franklinton, so far, has been the focal point of that redevelopment, and a big project to help tie in Downtown with the neighborhood is the planned redevelopment of the Peninsula.

Almost all the buildings that existed in the ’50s are now gone, even the housing projects. COSI uses much of the land for parking, as does Veteran’s Memorial. The rest is grassy lots primed for redevelopment. Some projects have already taken place. The two new Downtown bridges at Main and Rich Streets provide a nice access onto the Peninsula, along with the Broad Street bridge. A 4th, a planned pedestrian bridge, will be located on the north end crossing from Vet’s Memorial to North Bank Park in the Arena District. This bridge is probably still a few years off, as there is another, large project planned. The low-head dams along the Scioto River in the Downtown area are going to be removed, starting sometime next year. This will lower the river level and create a more natural flowing waterway. It will also create acres of new riverfront parkland that new paths and landscaping will be added to. This will create an inviting, park setting to both sides of the river.

The Peninsula has been planned for redevelopment several times in the last 30 years, but there was a lack of momentum for urban projects for decades and no serious plans ever seemed to emerge. That was until the last 10 years, starting in 2002 with the first Downtown development plan by Mayor Coleman and the city. A new version was released in 2010 and contained a dozen projects planned to help Downtown become a destination again. While the Scioto Peninsula was not specifically mentioned, fixing the riverfront was. That’s where Scioto Mile park came from and is now a very popular spot for residents. With all this momentum, the Peninsula needed a serious plan. Right now, meetings are taking place and a development plan is now in the early stages. Some early ideas include a lot of residential, retail and entertainment space, along with a more interactive riverfront and even a transit station for light rail. The first draft of the plan is likely to be released in 2013 and construction could begin as early as 2014.