Only the Great Southern still hosts guests.

The Westin Great Southern at Main and High streets is a nice, old hotel. Surely there must have been many other Downtown hotels. Where were they? This kind of question sends CQ to the Columbus Metropolitan Library's city directories (it has a collection dating back to before the Civil War). Columbus hotels were well-represented with nearly 60 hostelries by the 1940s. The Neil House, on High across from the Statehouse, was the granddaddy; other big ones were the Deshler at Broad and High (One Columbus is there now), the Fort Hayes on Spring Street (the COTA station today) and the Chittenden at Spring and High (Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation site).

Among the others were the American, the Bryden, the Del Rey, the Jefferson, the Star, the Virginia, the Ro-Jo, the Ohio, the Plaza and the Farmer's, which housed country folk coming to sell goods at Central Market on Fourth Street—the Greyhound station is now on the market's site. Most were within a mile or two of the city's center. Even the LeVeque Tower was partly a hotel—it had 600 rooms that expanded the adjacent Deshler; you can still see the scar of a bridge that connected them.

Not to be forgotten was the cylindrical Christopher Inn on East Broad (where School Employees Retirement System is now), built in 1963 and allegedly inspired by Marina City in Chicago. Today we have many fine new hotels, though most of the historic ones are gone. Among those that survive with new uses are the Dennison in Victorian Village (apartments), the Farmer's (Little Palace restaurant), the Hartman (condos), the Seneca (apartments) and the Norwich (offices). But the venerable Great Southern is the only historic hotel still serving its original purpose.

I've heard that “Columbus Limestone” has been used in buildings around town. What is this material, where did it come from and how is it used? In a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” our very own Columbus Limestone would prove to be pretty durable. Chemically, it's mostly calcium carbonate (the same stuff that can settle your acid indigestion), and it's pretty widespread in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Canada's province of Ontario.

The rock dates back 400 million years, when it was laid down in warm and shallow seas. It's made up of the shells and other parts of sea creatures such as trilobites and corals and is “highly fossiliferous,” meaning it's easy to find partial and even full fossils of long-dead critters in the matrix of the stone.

It was indeed named for our city by geologist William Mather in 1859. Though durable, its appeal is that it's easy to work with. It can be found all over the place, most prominently in the Statehouse and the adjacent Senate Building—from the foundation up, they're built of Columbus Limestone. Particularly in the Statehouse's walls and columns, it's easy to find all kinds of fossils. And the Atrium, built to link the two buildings during the 1990s restoration, was built of Columbus Limestone quarried south of the city. Because blasting for gravel production had caused cracks and fissures in the raw stone, a new area of the quarry had to be opened so large, solid blocks could be removed for the atrium's construction. Elsewhere in Columbus, German Village probably has the greatest concentration of this material, mainly in foundations, window lintels and sills, steps and stoops.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.