City Quotient: The Columbus Quarter Horse Connection

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

The annual Quarter Horse Congress at the Ohio Expo Center is said to be Central Ohio's biggest convention-type event. How big is it, and how did we get it? The All-American Quarter Horse Congress is probably second only to the Ohio State Fair in its loyalty to Columbus and the Ohio Expo Center at the State Fairgrounds. The American Quarter Horse is known for its speed and agility over short distances. The name comes from its reputation as the fastest horse over a quarter-mile, clocked up to 55 miles an hour.

The AAQHC, headquartered on 17th Avenue at the Fairgrounds, was started by the Ohio Quarter Horse Association, which is located in Richwood, near Marysville. The first Congress was in 1967 and the 50th will be this October. The Congress and the Expo Center appear to be a great fit: this is the largest single-breed horse show in the world, with 6,500 horses and 650,000 people in attendance.

In 2015 a new, 1,000-stall barn was completed at the Expo Center, and the Congress has committed to staying at least through 2025. The economic impact on Columbus is great. It attracts more than 600,000 people to the area and is said to generate about $200 million for the region each year.

On Front Street in the Brewery District there's a statue of a king holding up a foaming glass of beer. Who is he? That's King Gambrinus, celebrated icon of beer. Stories vary, sometimes connecting him to a real king and dating back as many as 700 years. More recently he's symbolized the brewing industry, not to mention the joy of beer consumption.

The old Gambrinus on Front Street memorializes Columbus' German beer-brewing heritage. Once a beehive of activity (and a source of strong aromas), the Brewery District was clustered on South Front Street between Livingston Avenue and Sycamore Street. Here, the breweries of Louis Hoster, Nicholas Schlee, Conrad Born and August Wagner pumped out suds from the 1830s until Prohibition in 1920. Though some brewers folded, others turned out non-alcoholic beverages. Among the latter was Wagner, who had built his brewery at the northwest corner of Front and Sycamore in 1906, with the Gambrinus statue gracing the east facade. During Prohibition Wagner made "Famous Augustiner," a concoction that "Conserves the Natural Qualities and Taste of the Famous Old Time Augustiner Wagner's Malt Tonic." Another offering was "Champaign Mist," the idea apparently being to persuade people to drink non-alcoholic stuff until the nation came to its senses and OK'd the real thing again.

When it did, Wagner revved up his brewery and again turned out real beer. Last of the old-time German brewers, he died at his Mackinac Island summer home in 1944, but the brewery ran for another 30 years. Though several former brewery buildings survive in new uses, Wagner's did not. But King Gambrinus was installed in a new location, where he still stands, so we would not forget our beer-soaked history.

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

Sources: AAQHC website;;; Arcadia Publishing, German Columbus; Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1920.