A move to the Hocking Hills helped keep a venerable Columbus factory alive.
Is it true there’s a Columbus company that makes old-fashioned washboards?
There is indeed a company that makes traditional washboards—and it’s called Columbus Washboard Co.—but it’s no longer in Columbus. Originally established in the city in 1895, the firm moved several years ago to Gallagher Avenue in Logan, down U.S. 33 in Hocking County. Rescued just in time to keep it from going out of business, the company thrives today in a former shoe factory.
Some 20,000 washboards a year are hand-assembled by just two production workers using some fascinating old machinery to cut and shape the wood-frame pieces of each washboard. Within the frame are the corrugated metal “rub surface” and the “brand board” stamped with a model name such as Sunnyland and, from the 1930s, Maid Rite. Custom names can be done, too.
During World War II, a shortage of metal forced the company to develop a tempered glass rub surface that’s still available. The company has donated more than 5,000 washboards to members of the U.S. military deployed overseas in places where doing laundry is a challenge. At the end of their deployment, troops leave the washboards behind for newly arriving personnel. There’s a shop at the factory with a wide range of washboards—some of them converted to bulletin boards—and other items. And if you want to learn more, Columbus Washboard Co. will be in one of the segments on WOSU-TV’s Columbus Neighborhoods series on Dec. 19, featuring yours truly.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Where and what is the Social Justice Park?
Dedicated just over a year ago, the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park is Downtown at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and Cleveland Avenue in the Discovery District. It’s a small park with a big mission: to commemorate the people and organizations historically committed to promoting social justice—anti-slavery, anti-racism, support of children and immigrants, women’s suffrage, educational opportunity and more.
The park has rotating exhibit panels mounted on the curving concrete walls (the panels were easily replaced after some recent vandalism). The current panels tell the stories of such leaders as the Society of American Indians, Jewish philanthropist Joseph Schonthal and Florence Allen, the first woman to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court. There’s also one about the Rev. James Poindexter, whose 200th birthday anniversary was celebrated in October at the adjacent First Congregational Church. He was an Underground Railroad “conductor” and the first African American to serve on Columbus City Council in the 1880s.
The park is named for Washington Gladden, also featured and no slouch himself in this arena. He was considered the “father of the Social Gospel Movement” and was minister at First Congregational for 36 years, ending in 1918. First Congregational and the Jeffrey family of Bexley were the forces behind the park’s creation. It has walking paths featuring stones with inspiring statements. One is a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Take time to visit.
Sources: Columbus Washboard Co. factory tour; Social Justice Park site visit; James P. Poindexter 200th birthday anniversary celebration program; Washington Gladden Social Justice Park informational materials***
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.