I received a cumbersome press package in the mail last week. During the holiday season, I expect every incoming press kit to be brightly wrapped in colorful paper. This one was not, so I immediately racked up a point against the sender. But I digress . . . because I enjoyed this package's contents. While many media packets we get are about products or events we could never write about (we once got a piñata promoting a Duct Tape Festival in northern Ohio), this package contained a book. In the world of journalists and word nerds, books are akin to triple-chocolate anything. Even better, the book was about history, photography and Columbus.
The hardback is called Columbus and The Ohio State University Then and Now. It pairs photos of Columbus landmarks in past eras with images of the same location today. Published by Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, it costs $18.95 and was penned by locals Kathy Mast Kane and Doreen Uhas Sauer. Kane is the executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, and Sauer is a trustee for the foundation and directs an American history grant for Columbus City Schools.
The writing, like the package it came in, is a little clunky. I guess that happens when you try to cram a century's worth of stories into three paragraphs. But many of the photos, particularly the historical images, are stunning. The Union Station/ Hyatt Regency Hotel entry includes a photo from 1898 of a long line of elephants from the Columbus-based Sells Brothers Circus marching past the old train stop. Or there's the spooky photo of Camp Chase, circa 1863, with its blurry ghostlike shadows and rundown prisoner huts.
Here are some of the book's best historical tidbits. You can share them during uncomfortable silences with Great Uncle Harold at the dinner table this week. Happy holidays.
- Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman delivered his famous "War is Hell" speech at Franklin Park Conservatory.
- The original Ohio State University football stadium, Ohio Field, had a seating capacity of only 6,100. The current Ohio Stadium seats 102, 329. In total, the venue has held more than 36 million football fans since opening in 1922.
- Indianola, a popular word in Columbus' history, stems from Columbusite Henry Neil. Henry was the first Ohioan enlisted in the Civil War and was wounded near Indianola, Mississippi. He named his house after the town. Henry's brother, Robert, lived in the Neil Mansion, which is now the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house.
- The namesake of the Benjamin Smith Mansion (now the Columbus Club) lost his fortune when he tried to build a rival to New York's Coney Island.
- The BNS in WBNS-TV is said to stand for "Banks, News, Shoes," the original business interests of the Wolfe family, who own the station.
- The statue of President William McKinley outside the Ohio Statehouse is erected in the spot where he would turn to wave to his wife before heading in to work. She would watch him every morning from their hotel room across the street.
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