Some time ago I acquired a cardboard fare ticket for the Town Street Chariot Co., with the name of the Columbus Chariot Co. stamped on the back.
Can you tell me when the Town Street company was formed, where it ran and when it might have expired or been bought out? Hmmm—a chariot company. It feels like we've “Ben Hur” before (sorry). But that movie—both its 1959 and 2017 versions—likely has fixed the chariot's image in everyone's mind: two wheels, multiple horses, ferocious racing. But the Latin root word carrus means simply a wheeled vehicle, and in Old French char means “cart.” So, allowing for the fact that words fall out of use, it seems apparent that “chariot” as used on that ticket meant a wheeled vehicle on which passengers could ride. Another term at the time would have been “omnibus” (Latin meaning “for all”), which today has been shortened to “bus.”
Our city's horse-drawn streetcar lines in the mid-19th century sometimes had chariot lines associated with them, serving areas where the tracks didn't go. Our guess is that the chariot lines may have developed first, followed shortly by the horsecars, at a time when Columbus was growing enough that walking to the city's outer areas was not convenient. On East Town Street, for example, the Ohio State School for the Deaf opened around 1830, followed by residential development farther out, so it could have been a busy chariot line. Alas, CQ can tell you little more about the Town Street Chariot Co. at the moment, but we would welcome hearing from anyone out there who could provide more complete information.
Why are so we directionally challenged? It's bad enough that Upper Sandusky is south of Sandusky. But why is Westerville not west? And what direction does East North Broadway travel, anyway? Yes, Ohio place names can be confusing, and their stories can be intriguing. But there are clues. For instance, almost anything ending in –ville or –burg usually was named for a founder or another important local person. As an example of street-naming, just look at Broad and High streets—simply descriptive of width and location (really wide, and on the high ground east of the Scioto, respectively). As to your questions, Upper Sandusky is UP the Sandusky River from Sandusky (the river flows north into Lake Erie); Westerville was named for the Westervelt family; and North Broadway got its name from its developers in the late 1890s. As you likely know, North Broadway runs east and west, so looking for locations on East North Broadway and West North Broadway can be confusing, no? The name probably was intended to help people find it on the city's north side, and “Broadway” implied a spacious, urbane thoroughfare—just a guess on our part, but we'll bet that's the derivation.
Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the answer might appear in a future column.
Sources: www.etymonline.com; www.columbusrailroads.com;
ODOT Official Ohio Transportation Map; National Register of Historic Places nomination form for East North Broadway Historic District.