Historic Columbus, Indiana

Historic Columbus, Indiana Columbus, Indiana circa the old days. Share any historic photos you may have on this page. This page is dedicated to displaying images of Columbus, Indiana's past establishments and landmarks.

Many of the curated photos are courtesy of Historic Columbus, Indiana (http://www.historiccolumbusindiana.org/) and the Historic Columbus, Indiana Message Board (http://columbusin.proboards.com/index.cgi). Please visit these sites for more historical background and content. If you would like to share any old photos of Columbus' Past then please do! We'd love to see them!

Operating as usual


Browsing through early editions of The Evening Republican as I do each morning, I came across a story from March 10, 1949. “Blizzard Blocks Roads, Closes Schools.” What I found interesting was this: “The city has sidewalk plows, but no horses. The plows have not been used on sidewalks for several years…”

Writing and researching the Mode Theatre this morning, I was detoured via a story which appeared in The Evening Republic...

Writing and researching the Mode Theatre this morning, I was detoured via a story which appeared in The Evening Republican, December 23, 1938 edition. The news story covered the death of Forrest N. Sconce who lost his life trying to save his four year old son from fire which engulfed their 515 Sixteenth Street home the night of December 22. His wife, Eunice, had escaped their home through a bedroom window. She went to the baby’s room, broke the glass, slipped in and rescued the boy. With Forrest not knowing this, he searched frantically through the bedroom. Forrest finally fled the house on fire. His next-door neighbor described seeing Forrest: “It looked to me like the man was carrying a Christmas tree. The man fell and I reached him immediately. His hair was on fire and I beat it out.”
Police were amazed at what they saw on their arrival. From the knees up, Forrest’s body was burned to a crisp. In the ambulance, he asked the officers not to notify his mother as she suffered from heart trouble. He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Fire Chief James Kailor blamed the loss of life and destruction on the shoddy manner in which the home was built. For years, Kailor had rallied, pleaded, and griped about Columbus having no building code.
As late as December, 1947, nine years after the Sconce fire, Columbus still had no building code in place.
This was addressed by an editorial in the December 6, 1947 edition of The Evening Republican, and centered around the building of the triangular shaped building at the northeast intersection of Fifth and Washington streets.
“The need for a building code and zoning ordinance in Columbus was brought home this week to a great many local citizens when the one story block house on the triangle at Fifth and Washington streets began to take form. When completed, and the outside walls faced with glass, the building in itself maybe attractive, but it comes far from fitting into the plan of a well laid out business district. A building code with teeth could block a project of this type. Construction of this one story triangular building in the heart of the business district, surrounded by two and three story buildings certainly should impress on the citizens the need for getting something done in the way of a building code and zoning ordinance.”
A building code was finally adopted by the Columbus City Council in 1949.

60 Years Ago Today“Workmen on scaffolding prepare to install new front at the Simmen Hardware store, 330 Washington Stre...

60 Years Ago Today
“Workmen on scaffolding prepare to install new front at the Simmen Hardware store, 330 Washington Street. The new front will include recessed show windows with a 44-foot sidewalk marquee. The front work is part of a complete remodeling of the 100 year old building and is expected to be completed late this month.” -- The Evening Republican, August 2, 1960, p6.
This block of buildings was eventually demolished for the Commons Mall.

Ever since my book, “Columbus, Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre” was published seven years ago, I’ve spent a good deal o...

Ever since my book, “Columbus, Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre” was published seven years ago, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the lives of Frank Rembusch, and his son, Trueman. These two Rembusch men dominated Columbus entertainment (stage, movies, and radio) for decades.
This image appeared in the August 19, 1955 edition of the Indianapolis Star. At the time, Trueman was a newly appointed member of the Indiana State Fair Board.
The Race-O-Later, as the structure was named, was all Trueman’s idea, and a successful one at that. This new device, a revolving stand on which judges, timers, and field announcers sat, could watch harness races from start to finish, offering the officials an unmolested view of races at all times.

In December, 1955, Trueman raised hell with members of the State Fair Board for renewing the lease of the Tee-Pee Drive-In restaurant. At a meeting held on December 6, Trueman blasted the Board for the renewal for a flat monthly rental instead of seeking a percentage of the gross receipts. While the Tee-Pee was owned by A. R. McComb, the structure, located at the southeast corner of the fairgrounds, was under lease.
At the meeting, Trueman told Board members he estimated that the people of Indiana had lost at least $300,000 in revenue because the Tee-Pee lease had been on a flat rental basis. Trueman declared a percentage of the gross should be the basis for the rental property. The meeting became so heated that W. E. Struckman, Board President, loudly attempted to rule Trueman out of order. Gilman Stewart became so frustrated, he got up and walked out of the meeting, refusing to vote.
The two Rembusch’s were fascinating and powerful men in the movie entertainment business. Once this Pump House book is out of the way, I’ll begin working on a book about them.

All did not go well when “Dr. Jekyl and His Weird Show” appeared on stage at the Crump Theatre that Tuesday night of Sep...

All did not go well when “Dr. Jekyl and His Weird Show” appeared on stage at the Crump Theatre that Tuesday night of September 20, 1955. A crowd of 1,000 showed up a half hour before show time and stormed the ticket booth. Pressure from the pushing and shoving shattered the glass window of the ticket office. Police were dispatched to quell the mob. Ticket sales were stopped three times.
And they say nothing exciting ever happens in Columbus.

Speaking of this Historic Columbus Indiana page: April 13, 2012, marks my first posting on this page. I’ve cove...

Speaking of this Historic Columbus Indiana page: April 13, 2012, marks my first posting on this page. I’ve covered a lot of Columbus history in the eight years I’ve been involved here.
Some day, when you’re bored and in search of a little reading material, spend some time scrolling through the offerings here. You’ll discover a lot of history, as well as some nostalgia, and a lot of photos.
Thank you for being a part of this page.
David Sechrest
Historic Columbus Indiana
This photo of Sap's was my first post.

Five years ago, today, I posted this. In remembrance, I'm sharing it once again.

Five years ago, today, I posted this. In remembrance, I'm sharing it once again.

In Memory of Karyn Konetzka

When I was just starting out in the Historic Columbus Indiana (HCI) business, all of my web-efforts were fueled by nostalgia. Reflecting back on those days this morning, there was nothing “historic” about those days and what it was I had in mind for my website at the time. And it most definitely was not a business. But it was an addiction. I was like a junkie in search of a fix, constantly chasing that dragon in pursuit of images of a Columbus that no longer existed in order to satisfy my nostalgic fixation. At the time, there were no “old pictures of Columbus” on the web. To be more specific, there were no pictures of the Columbus of my youth (1950s/1960s).
That very first HCI website that I brought to life in 2001 is vapor today. The very first images I posted on that website came from my high school yearbooks, and accompanying the images were my prose and stories of my growing up in Columbus. When I created the first message board (also vapor) in 2002, I came into contact with others who had their own pictures and memories of their Columbus. Through my attempts at capturing a Columbus that no longer existed, I gained many new friends and acquaintances.
Two were Karyn and Keith Konetzka.
This morning, I read that Karyn died last Saturday at her home, surrounded by her family. Karyn was one of the first to reach out to me and share Columbus photos taken by her family in the 1950s.
This morning, I’m thinking of Karyn. As a tribute to her, here is a collection of photos she was kind enough to share with me.
Rest in peace.

A Brief and Early History of Balloon Ascensions in ColumbusThe first-ever Balloon National Championship was held at the ...

A Brief and Early History of Balloon Ascensions in Columbus

The first-ever Balloon National Championship was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 5, 1909. The declared winner of the race was John Berry, piloting “The University City.” Berry traveled a distance of 382 miles in 26 hours, 35 minutes. He landed six miles south of Ft. Payne, Alabama.

Carl G. Fisher, piloting “The Indiana,” came in fifth, traveling 230 miles, and spending 18 hours, 30 minutes in the air. Calling from Tennessee after he landed, Fisher said, “Yes, we are safe and sound, thanks to the poor marksmanship of a number of farmers. They began firing at us when we were in Brown County, Indiana, and have kept up the target practice ever since—right up to 6 o’clock Monday evening when we stepped out of the basket.”

Six balloons were spotted in the skies over Columbus that Saturday, June 5, 1909. A. H. Morgan, piloting “The Cleveland,” came in sixth place, landing on the farm of J. W. Holliday in Bartholomew County, about nine miles west of Columbus.

A “Professor” Wilbur* may have been the first Columbus resident to ascend to the heavens in a balloon. Wilbur and his wife moved to Columbus in the 1870s. He offered to make ascensions if someone furnished him a balloon.

Wilbur’s offer brought about a number of people willing to invest in the venture. A number of creative Columbus women engaged in making an aircraft. Heavy cloth was secured and cut to the proper size and sewed together. The outside of the bag was then coated with varnish to make it as nearly airtight as possible, and when the rigging was attached, everything was ready for inflation.

In those days, gas balloons were not in use, and the only method of inflation was to dig a trench, build a bonfire, and let the hot air inflate the bag.

Early ascensionists were Dr. William O. Hogue, Henry M. Mounts, Francis L. Stevens, Fire Chief Henry C. Davie, and John Storey.

“Professor” Wilbur made three or four ascensions from Columbus. Before one scheduled ascension, he declared he could not make it because of health so his wife took his place. The balloon traveled about a half-mile, descending in an oak tree on the McEwen farm. She had some difficulty in getting down.

Henry M. Mounts, yardmaster for the JM&I railroad, wanted badly to go up, and on getting his chance, a balloon was filled with gas from the gas company at Fifth and Brown streets. Not quite fully inflated, he kissed his wife goodbye. With crowds shouting encouragement, the ropes were cut. The balloon careened over the side of a high board fence, demolishing said fence, then caught on the top of a buggy, demolishing said buggy. With a little pushing by spectators, it finally cleared the buggy shop and landed in the middle of Fifth Street, having flown about one block.
Professor Wilbur moved away from Columbus, relocating in a town in Illinois. On his final ascension there one afternoon, he dropped from the balloon about one-half mile above the ground, and was killed instantly.
Other Columbus balloonists were: “Governor Cook,” of East Columbus, Williamson T. Hager of Flatrock, and David Chitty, “who also went up several times and acquired the name of “Professor.”
I like this—“In those days, every man who had anything to do with ballooning was known as “professor.”
Jerry Williams was another balloonist, and made one ascension without his consent. He was holding to the drag rope when the bag suddenly began lifting and he grew too excited to let go. When about forty feet in the air, he realized that something had to be done so he began sliding down the rope. His hands were skinned and blistered when he reached the ground.

An article in The Evening Republican newspaper of June 8, 1909 detailed a history of balloon ascension in Bartholomew County which I referred to in this writing.

*searching for a Professor Wilbur at newspapers dot com turned up nothing.

Photo is from here -- http://indymotorspeedway.com/hist-1909-balloon.html

I don't know if 1936 still holds the record for the hottest year in Columbus history. Maybe someone here knows?Here is a...

I don't know if 1936 still holds the record for the hottest year in Columbus history. Maybe someone here knows?
Here is a list for the highs of June, July, and through August 21, 1936.
Growing up in Columbus in the 1950s/60s, we never had a/c. I remember some hot and uncomfortable nights. Taking a bath before bed did help.


From The Evening Republican, June 5, 1909

The Fehring Carriage Company today turned out what it considers the finest wagon it ever built. The wagon was built for Zaharako Brothers, proprietors of the Greek candy store, and will be used on the streets of the city during the summer months.
The wagon is eight feet long and four feet wide and is finished in imported white enamel. The sides and doors are of French plate glass and the wheels are shod with heavy rubber tires and run on roller bearings. The wagon is equipped with electric lights, the vehicle having its own storage battery. A foot gong is also attached so the driver may attract attention on his rounds. Although the wagon is a heavy piece of work, it is so constructed that it runs light enough for one horse to pull it.

Edit to add--I did search online for a photo, but had no luck finding one. However, I do believe there is a photo hanging inside Zaharako's of a wagon, on the wall going back toward the kitchen area.

If anyone has a photo, please post it! We'd love to see it!

Before the gymnasium was built on the Central School campus, local high school basketball games were played on the secon...

Before the gymnasium was built on the Central School campus, local high school basketball games were played on the second floor of City Hall, situated at the southwest corner of Fifth and Franklin streets.


Thurston Shirley, Columbus Parks & Rec Superintendent (1939-1948)

In 1946, Thurston Shirley, city park superintendent, recommended the city acquire additional land for park and recreation purposes. Shirley proposed the city purchase a section of land north of the city golf course at Seventeenth Street to Twenty-fifth Street, and bordered by Hawcreek Avenue at the west to the Hawcreek stream. This property would be developed for baseball and softball diamonds, and tennis courts.

Shirley’s report also included development of a riverfront recreational area between the junction of State Road 31 and Flatrock River south to the Second Street bridge. Further development of Columbus’ park system Shirley proposed was an indoor recreation center on the Twenty-fifth Street property, as well as a swimming pool.

Shirley estimated that between 80,000 to 100,000 persons visited Donner Park in 1945, with Charley Sewell’s shelter house programs drawing 19,000 persons.

One of the new recreational features introduced in 1945 by Shirley was the supervised opening of school playgrounds during the nine week summer vacation, allowing children to interact and play games. Another new feature introduced (by Shirley) at Donner Park was ice skating during winter months. The tennis courts were sprayed with water, forming a coating of ice thick enough for skating enthusiasts. Shirley’s idea of transforming Donner Park’s tennis courts into an ice skating rink proved so popular that the area was lighted for night skating.

All of Shirley’s proposals came to be. Well, all but one—the creation of a riverfront, which is currently in the works.

Thurston Shirley lived long enough to see his projects come to fruition. He began working for the Columbus park department in 1939, and retired in 1948. Shirley died September 7, 1988, at Community Hospital in Indianapolis, and is buried at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Norristown. He was 77 years old.

I searched for a photo of Shirley, but had no luck finding one.

90 Years AgoFrom The Evening Republican, January 21, 1930. The caption reads, “Above is shown Clessie L. Cummins, local ...

90 Years Ago
From The Evening Republican, January 21, 1930. The caption reads, “Above is shown Clessie L. Cummins, local manufacturer and inventor, with a view of the diesel motor which has caused such a sensation in automobile circles. Shown, also, is the standard chassis in which he mounted the motor and drove to New York to establish a new low record for automobile fuel economy—792 miles for $1.38.”

Originally posted seven years ago, church service held at the Columbus Drive-In, 1957.

Originally posted seven years ago, church service held at the Columbus Drive-In, 1957.

Columbus Drive-In church service on a Sunday morning in 1957.

Fifty-five years ago, this is what Columbus looked like.From Indiana Business and Industry magazine, February, 1965

Fifty-five years ago, this is what Columbus looked like.
From Indiana Business and Industry magazine, February, 1965

From the Buffalo Express (New York), November 17, 1868“(Ulysses S.) Grant made a speech (rather lengthy, but good), at C...

From the Buffalo Express (New York), November 17, 1868

“(Ulysses S.) Grant made a speech (rather lengthy, but good), at Columbus, Ind., while en route to Washington. In response to a call for a speech he said: “You have heard so much speech-making recently that I presume you are tired of it. You have done the talking; now I propose to do the work!”

Historic Columbus, Indiana

I'm reposting this rather long post from four years ago. Little has been written about Columbus Black history.
If anyone reading this post has a photo of J. L. Clark, I hope it can be shared here.
Click on "January 4, 2016" for a better read.

Blind, African American Man Wins Columbus’ First Branding Slogan Contest, with “Columbus: Indiana’s Pride”

Over the years, Columbus has had several branding motto's. Athens of the Prairie. Different by Design. Columbus—Unexpected, Unforgettable. These monikers have helped to concisely describe the city to the outside world using as few words as possible. As you can tell by past slogans, three words seem to be the most effective, as well as the ultimate challenge in describing Columbus to the outside world.
The “Unexpected, Unforgettable” branding of Columbus isn’t all that old (April, 2007). At the time, then-Mayor Fred Armstrong had this to say about the new brand: “We will be able to promote our community more effectively, with a single, well-researched message that is true to both our community’s assets and aspirations.”
While the methods and words used to sell Columbus to the outside world have changed over the years, the basic premise has always remained the same. While the “Selling of Columbus” dates back to the town’s earliest days, it wasn’t until the early 1890s that one particular group of civic-minded businessmen got together, and organized the first council whose interest was to further the town’s business interests to the outside world. Early benefits used in the selling of Columbus were:
1) The city’s beautiful Courthouse;
2) The city had an opera house (Crump Theatre);
3) The city had its own Water-Works.
The Columbus Commercial Club (CCC), established in the early 1890s, and a predecessor to today's Chamber of Commerce, was responsible for bringing various industries to Columbus; one business in particular was the Reliance shirt factory at 12th and Washington (1912).
The first idea to brand Columbus came about in April, 1913. The week of April 21, 1913, the very first Booster Week was held in Columbus. The goal was to increase the CCC's club membership. Merchants passed out booster buttons, and awarded prizes. To tie in with the festivities, Prof. Will A. Harding composed the very first song for Columbus. Sung to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia,” the lyrics were:

Here’s to our Columbus, boys, the pride of all the State;
She’s a town of church and school and growing at great rate.
Just the place to bring the ones whom we would educate,
That’s why I live in Columbus.
Hurrah! Hurrah! We’ll rally to her call!
Hurrah! Hurrah! We’ll boost her, one and all!
She’s the gem of Indiana and she just suits me,
That’s why I live in Columbus!
This good town is what we’ve made it,
of that you are aware;
We can have it better yet, but each must do his share.
Buy “home goods” and help “home people;” treat them on the square,
Show that you’re true to Columbus.
There’s no room for “Knockers,” boys,
they’re sure a bad, bad lot;
Should we find one lurkin’ ‘round,
we’ll out him on the trot.
Praise the good, reform the evil, wipe out every blot.
That’s what we want in Columbus.
Chorus repeats and song closes.

The song was first sung inside Crump’s Theatre at the big booster rally on May 6, 1913 .
Coinciding with all the booster happenings around town was a contest, open to the public, to come up with the best slogan for the city. Rules stated that all entries should contain no more than three words. The winner for the best slogan would be awarded ten dollars cash.
The climax of the event took place May 6th inside Crump’s Theatre. George Irving, Chicago businessman, spoke at the event. Irving traveled the country, helping to organize Commercial Clubs in many cities.
At that night’s meeting, Irving has this to say: “Columbus can never grow as she should grow until your big men get into the game and lend their assistance to this movement. A city that has an art institute, a museum, and things like that has the greatest things a community can have. Your banks and your factories are not the greatest assets you have. The greatest thing a town can have is its social welfare. Then you need people who will appreciate such things after you get them. Many boys here are driven out of Columbus because they cannot get a job here. It is up to the fathers to make Columbus so attractive that the boys will stay at home and have places where they may secure employment.”
After all of the addresses, Harding’s song was sung by a packed house, backed by the Columbus City Band.
The week-long activities came to a conclusion Friday night, May 9, 1913, at City Hall. At the end of the evening, the new branding slogan for Columbus was announced, as well as the person who wrote it.
From The Evening Republican, 10 May 1913:
"Last Wednesday night, a committee composed of Louis J. Scheidt, W. N. Achenbach, Ernest D. Snyder, and George R. Irving began the task of going over the 150 odd slogans submitted. It was their duty to select the winning slogan and after a long and tedious search through the various literary efforts of Columbus people, they decided on “Columbus: Indiana’s Pride”
None of the men knew who J. L. Clark was. Imagine their surprise when a blind, African American man, came to collect the ten dollars prize money!
It turns out that Mr. Clark had his aunt write his slogan on a piece of paper, and she submitted it for entry.
J. L. Clark made his living weaving cane seats for chair bottoms. During the summer, he pedaled vegetables.
Thus ends the story of Columbus' first brand.


Columbus, IN


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Hello....many of my Kobbe ancestors came from Bartholomew Co., Wayne Twp, Columbus, Indiana. While doing some research I found that there is a school named "Kobbe" in Wayne Twp. and I have been searching to find a picture....was hoping maybe this site might have a picture of the Kobbe School to share....thank you.
A question came up regarding this photo.. does anyone know any history about the white house on the left background of this photo?
Hello, I live in a house that was built in the late 1930s across the street from Donner Park. I'm interested in finding some pictures of the park at that time, and if by any luck to find a picture of my house when it was built. Visiting the Historical Society was suggested, are there other resources to search?
Anyone know history of this building? 2524 Indiana Ave. It looks like on old store front, but 10' behind this front, it becomes a old barn. Front says Cook, 1945.
I am interested in getting information about the Columbus Inn Bed and Breakfast. My husband and I stayed there 31 yrs ago and it was beautiful. We had a wonderful long weekend there and in your beautiful town. What happened to the bed and breakfast? I cannot find any information! Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Can anyone give me any information on the building right on the corner of 500E 250N? Looks to be a old church house or maybe schoolhouse. Just curious about what it was used for.
This is the old Haw Creek Tannery on 1st and Washington where my great-grandfather worked in the early 40’s. I’m wondering if anyone remembers anything about the place.
I'm a reporter with the Indianapolis Star. I'm trying to reach David Sechrest. Could he please give me a call at 317 444-6043?
I've enjoyed reading your posts and seeing pictures. We're purchasing a house on 22nd street across from Donner Park. It was built in 1935, and would love to see some pictures of the area around the time it would have been built. Any advice on how to find? It would be awesome to see the house/area around that time. During our inspection I was surprised to find they built the house using 2 railroad ties as the main beams.
Is anyone still here?
Has this page been discontinued?