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!

PrefaceThursday, January 23, 1879. A notice went out from C. S. Sands, Will Mackey, Frank Preston, and Alexander Childs ...


Thursday, January 23, 1879. A notice went out from C. S. Sands, Will Mackey, Frank Preston, and Alexander Childs calling attention to Columbus’ Black population that Sunday Sabbath services would be held at the old Lutheran Church on Jefferson Street (Seventh Street today). Aside from the announcement, a plea was made to sympathetic citizens to assist the Black population in finding a place to worship. “There are 38 colored persons in the city, 28 of whom are grown.” (TER, 23 Jan 1879, p.4).

I *believe* the old Lutheran Church was the site of the first Black church in Columbus.

The 1886 Sanborn map shows a Black Church situated on Washington Street, in the front part of Joe Wooley’s Livery (roughly where Baker’s Gifts is situated today).

Many malicious acts by Whites against the Black church are recorded in the paper. This is but one.

Letter To The Editor of The Evening Republican, 8 April 1880:

A small congregation of colored people having a desire among other things of attending to the welfare of their souls, have organized a church in which they meet and endeavor in their humble and feeble manner to offer up their devotion to the Almighty. In this they are sincere, no matter how they may lack in the intelligence, culture and refinement of their more favored white brethren. Reverence for the Deity and a zealous and enthusiastic appreciation of religion is characteristic of the race. In this there can certainly be nothing to condemn, but much to admire.
Now it was the writer’s good fortune upon last Sabbath evening to attend divine services at this church, and he found the house crowded, what the colored people lacked in numbers being supplied by white people. After the preliminary exercises the pulpit was occupied by the Rev. Parker, a blind man, whose discourse, if not an eloquent one, was certainly a very impressive one. And neither in his discourse nor in any part of the evenings devotions was there any occasion for fun or derision, yet that intelligent, highly cultured and refined portion of the congregation, females as well as males, (it is usual to designate the sexes by the title of ladies and gentleman, but their conduct was of such a nature that it would require a bigger stretch of conscience than the writer is capable of to so designate them). They, the white portion of the congregation, conducted themselves in such a manner as betokened a familiarity with free and easy shows, and an entire disregard of and absence of all religious instruction or training, though some of them may no doubt have been taught differently at home, yet does their conduct reflect upon their raising or home education. It was been the writer’s good fortune to attend many white churches at which were present a goodly number of colored people and he has yet to see one conduct himself or herself in an unbecoming manner. We certainly need a few more lessons in refinement from our superiors, the Anglo Saxons, that highly cultured, intelligent, refined, God-loving and God-serving people, for it their conduct of last Sunday evening is the test of refinement, then we surely are far, very far behind our white friends, but we can improve. The time may come when we may become educated up to that standard, until such a time comes our white friends will excuse us if we look upon the lesson or example they set up Sabbath evening with a sort of belief that they are not consistent with the rules of propriety or good breeding.

Editor’s reply: There has frequently been complaints of whites who visit the colored church simply to make fun and disturb the services. The writer fitly describes and characterizes this conduct. It is a disgrace to the race and a disgrace to the city and it is just about time that the authorities take some steps to put a period to it. Such conduct would not be tolerated in any of the other churches and should not be here, and if the white hoodlums who visit the church have no respect for God, religion or themselves, they should be taught to respect the law.

One Hundred Years Ago: Self Serve Shopping Comes to ColumbusA new innovation and novel way of shopping debuted in downto...

One Hundred Years Ago: Self Serve Shopping Comes to Columbus

A new innovation and novel way of shopping debuted in downtown Columbus one hundred years ago. On March 31, 1920, the Glassner Store, 330-332 Washington Street, opened their new grocery store. Along with the opening came a new and novel way Columbus residents could shop: Self serve.
“This serve yourself store is an innovation in mercantile lines in Columbus, something new, albeit novel, and something that promises to become more popular with the passing of time, and when the people of the city become fully acquainted with the methods and the money saved to them.” *
Demonstrators from the Beech Nut Packing Company, Pillsbury Flour, Domino Sugar, and Mazola Oil traveled to Columbus to assist shoppers and to help acquaint them with self serve shopping.
Samuel Glassner shuttered his business in 1951. He was forced out because Simmen Hardware purchased the building (the Kollmeyer Building) from which he operated.
Glassner’s was a downtown fixture for more than 40 years.

* The Evening Republican, 31 March 1920, page 4. Since I do not have a photo of Glassner's, this will have to do.

Louis Richard editorial cartoon published in The Evening Republican, December 13, 1918.The caption reads, "Do your shopp...

Louis Richard editorial cartoon published in The Evening Republican, December 13, 1918.
The caption reads, "Do your shopping at home and help Columbus grow."


And now for something completely different.
For those who may not know, Sammy Terry was WTTV-tv, Channel 4 Horror Host for many many years.
This intro to Mario Bava's film, BLACK SUNDAY came from an old VHS copy I have.
Many Columbus residents have fond memories of watching Sammy Terry on Friday or Saturday nights.


Sammy Terry was WTTV-tv, Channel 4's Horror Host for many years.

One of my "based on true events," writings from three years ago...It is 1925. October 25. Where does the time go, indeed...

One of my "based on true events," writings from three years ago...

It is 1925. October 25. Where does the time go, indeed? It seems just yesterday the family moved here. Dad secured work at the First National Bank the same year it was organized. That was 1865, and *that* was sixty years ago. Just how in blazes did it get so late so soon?
I saw quite the sight this morning. I think I shan’t ever see such a sight again in my lifetime.
I slept soundly last evening. Awoke only once to the call of nature. It is a familiar call that men my age hear, between the hours the shadows have fallen and first light. Having no luck resuming my intended nocturnal mode, I sat quietly between the hours, listening to my thoughts and the town waking up.
At times, especially in the early morning hours, it is somewhat difficult for me to fathom just how big Columbus has gotten. Most of its people are of the honest, hard-working sort. As for myself, I like work these days. I can sit and look at it for hours. I do tinker occasionally at the trade which made me comfortable. Most times, though, I reflect on the days when my life was my work. From sun up to sun set, I busied myself with it, and now, looking back, I think that is why the days flew by so quickly. Trying to slow down time when one is deeply in love with what they do becomes a question for contemplation once one reaches his twilight years.
But time and work are not the fodder of this morning’s venture. Leave it for another day to reflect on such matters.
Around 8:15 this morning, I stepped out onto my front porch. It was a beautiful, October morning. Mrs. Halladay and her friend were on their way to work and too deep in conversation to acknowledge me. Their talk of work fell in cadence to their steps. She is so worried about radio supplanting the telephone. I don’t know why she continues to harp on such nonsense. There will be room enough in this world for both.
As the ladies bustled down Pearl, I stepped out into the hazy morning sunlight. It was your typically quiet, Pearl Street, Saturday morning, but far off in the distance, I could hear this faint, purring noise. I stretched my ears toward the direction, when lo and behold, my eyes fell upon the beast making the noise.
There! In the heavens, about fifteen hundred feet in the air, was the source! The mighty Leviathan of the air they call the Shenandoah, sailing effortlessly over the southwestern skies, consumed my vision. Her presence was completely unexpected. Last I read, this mighty swimmer of the skies would follow the Ohio River on her return trip from the Pacific coast.
Before I could utter a word, the fire whistle at the Water-Works blared out with such fury that I heard something glass break, followed by Mrs. Trent taking the Lord’s name in vain. And out they poured. Women wearing breakfast aprons, still clutching kitchen utensils. Sleepy-eyed children and men in starched, white collars. Those collars were not made for heaven-searching, and all were undone in a matter of minutes.
Looking upward at this shiny, silver fish, it was difficult to judge its actual size. If resting quietly on the ground on Washington Street, it would encompass a distance from Fourth to Second streets, and stand taller than the courthouse.
The sight all but shut down the local telephone exchange. “Gosh! I am going to call the wife!” and “I’m going to call mother!” set telephones off all throughout town. Later, the local paper exclaimed that the sight was as exciting as a youngster with a new Rolls-Royce. Ellis Lortz was sitting in a barber chair, getting a shave when the commotion broke. He jumped up from the barber chair and hurried onto Washington Street, still adorned in the white chair robe, standing and gazing open-mouthed and upward as the lather on his face stiffened, hardening on his whiskers as a plaster cast.
Just imagine. A heavier than air craft, sailing in the heavens. The excitement the scene created was the greatest the proud, old county of Bartholomew has witnessed since the 1918 armistice.
Oh. What times in which we live.

My forthcoming book on the history of Columbus, Indiana’s Water-Works (Pump House) will contain only three chapters. Whi...

My forthcoming book on the history of Columbus, Indiana’s Water-Works (Pump House) will contain only three chapters. While this may seem a rather small number, each chapter will cover in great detail the Three Phases of our water-works development:
Phase 1: Fire Protection
Phase 2 Powering Industry
Phase 3 Clean Water
Each specific phase will be covered in great detail (that’s the obsessive-compulsive part of me when it comes to writing about Columbus history). And, it is noted here that each separate phase affected the other phases. As an example, shortly after the American Starch factory went online in 1880, Water-Works engineers noticed the filter on the city’s intake water pipe clogged up more often. The cause was the sticky, starchy byproduct American Starch dumped into the Flatrock River. Because of American Starch and the factory’s waste, the amount and flow of water into the water-works well and through the city’s waterlines was impeded. This lack of available water could be disastrous in combating fires, thus a separate unfiltered water line was available as a precautionary measure.
The greatest challenge to our Columbus’ Water-Works was “Phase 3”: providing clean, potable water to Columbus residents. Prior to 1881, water for potable use was on line with most other towns and cities in Indiana. In other words, it was fine to drink. In 1881, the city embarked on the “Fifth Street Sewer Project.” This sewer line dumped waste from Mooney & Son’s Tannery, the Columbus Gas Works, and other businesses into the Mill Race. From here, the effluent emptied into the Driftwood River just above the point where the Water-Works’ intake pipe fed all of Columbus its water needs.
On July 11, 1892, Bartholomew County Board of Health Officer, J. S. Arwine, M.D., issued the following report:
“During the past week, I have applied the Field tests to water drawn fresh and caught in clean receptacles from the Court House well, Snyder’s and Noblitt’s wells, three public wells of Columbus, and I find the water from each of them polluted with sewerage and the liquids of animal excreta to an extent that renders them absolutely unfit for drinking purposes. Therefore, as health officer of the county, I deem it my duty to warn the people of the danger stored in these wells. A draught of water from either of them may at any time lay the foundation, or be the cause of the most dangerous form of disease. Therefore, I advise every person to abandon the use of these wells.”
This is but one report of many. This single issue plagued city administrations for thirty years. The same year that Dr. Arwine made the above report (1892), the “Pure Water” situation was so bad that city officials contemplated abandoning the Water-Works entirely, and relocating it one mile north on the banks of the Flatrock River.
This is a big story, a story which is impossible to tell without telling the story of Columbus, too, for the two are so inseparably bound to one another.
My self-imposed deadline for the book is the end of the year. With August, 2021 being the 150th anniversary of the Water-Works, it’s a fitting time to tell the story of this most important piece of Columbus history.
The image is a cropped, 1890 Sanborn map showing Mooney & Son's Tannery, the Gas Works, and their relationship to the Mill Race into which the Fifth Street sewer emptied in to, and carried effluent to the Driftwood River.

Today's posting doesn't concern Columbus or Bartholomew County.A few days ago, I posted a brief timeline of the Spanish ...

Today's posting doesn't concern Columbus or Bartholomew County.
A few days ago, I posted a brief timeline of the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 and how it affected Columbus/Bartholomew County residents. Today's posting ties in with this earlier posting.
With all of us hunkered down, distancing ourselves from one another, and taking precautions against Covid-19, I find it interesting in seeing the similarities of how today's pandemic is being handled vs. the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918. As with today's corona virus, there was no known remedy in the fight against the Spanish Flu.

The 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic put Vick's Vaporub on the map, so to speak. I'm not sure if it fits into the "Panic Buying" scenario we see going on around us today for so many staple products, but demand for Vick's was high, and druggists could not keep it in stock. The company was caught off guard.

Here's a brief history of Vick's, and the man who invented the product:

Lunsford Richardson is the man who invented Vicks Vaporub. In 1888, Lunsford bought Dr. Porter’s drug store in Greensboro, NC. Pharmacists of the day were known for concocting their own home remedies, and Lunsford began experimenting with a product which would help “croupy babies” breathe easier. Working with menthols from Japan, he concocted a menthol-camphor salve that eased congestion.

The story goes that “Richardson’s Croup and Pneumonia Cure Salve” was too wordy, didn’t roll off the tongue, and was too long to put on a bottle or jar. Earlier in life, around 1880, Lunsford worked with his brother-in-law physician, Dr. Vick, in Selma, Alabama, handling the daily pharmacy duties. It's believed that Vick's was named for his brother-in-law.

What really put Vicks on the map was the deadly Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918-1919. Sales jumped from $900k to $2.9 million in a single year.

Lunsford died August 21, 1919. On September 9, 1944, the Liberty ship, S.S. Lunsford Richardson was launched. The vessel was named the Lunsford Richardson at the request of leading Black citizens of North Carolina.

How the Spanish Influenza Outbreak of 1918 Affected the Citizens of Columbus, Indiana/Bartholomew CountyThe Spanish Infl...

How the Spanish Influenza Outbreak of 1918 Affected the Citizens of Columbus, Indiana/Bartholomew County

The Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 claimed the lives of more Columbus/Bartholomew County residents situated outside the boundaries of the city/county than inside the city/county boundaries. Those who died were servicemen, the majority stationed at Camp Morton, Indianapolis.

Throughout the month of October, 1918, The Evening Republican newspaper was peppered with articles and advertisements addressing the pandemic, offering precautions and medicinal products. It appears there was no panic buying of staples.

Here is a brief timeline of events covering the time the most virulent strain appeared:

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7—Dr. J. H. Morrison, Bartholomew County Health Commissioner, receives a telegram from J. N. Hurty, Indiana State Board of Health Secretary, ordering all schools, churches and places of amusement in Bartholomew County closed. Any person with a cold is urged to stay home. “The public spitter is a nuisance and must be treated as such.”

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8—at a meeting of the Bartholomew County Medical Society, local physicians advised against any quarantine of Spanish Flu cases on the ground that quarantine orders might prevent some patients from contacting physicians. “While there are a number of cases in the city, the physicians do not seem to regard the situation as alarming as that the disease is not epidemic and the cases not especially virulent.” No fatalities had yet to be reported.

WEDNESDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 9—on returning from a meeting in Evansville, Donald DuShane, Columbus schools Superintendent, begins taking steps toward reopening all city schools. The order issued by the State Board of Health had not been signed by Hurty. On the contrary, Hurty expresses his opposition to the state school closings, emphatically stating the order had been sent out in his absence by some subordinate without authority to do so.

WEDNESDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 9—On an order issued by the secretary of the city board of health, a social party and dance given at the home of Harry Robinson at Second and Washington streets was stopped by the police. Mr. Robinson insisted that the party, which was given in honor of his son, was a very small one and he felt that it would not come under the order prohibiting public gatherings. Guests of the party start a clamor for the closing of the pool halls in the city for like reasons.
Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, the Board of Health issues an order calling off all public meetings until midnight, October 20. “All street cars and interurban cars shall be operated with all ventilators open regardless of weather conditions. The same holds true for train passenger cars. Meetings in the open can be held only under the following conditions: the meeting place is not in an area where there are cases of the flu, and a permit must be obtained from the state board of health.” This is the first time in Indiana history that such measures have been taken.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11—The first death from the Spanish Flu is reported in Bartholomew County: Herschel Leonard Cooper, age 21, of Newbern. Five family members are reported ill with the Spanish Flu.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17—20 cases of Spanish Flu are reported in Bartholomew County. The flu claims its second victim: Freida McNeely, Clifty Township, four years old. Statewide bans, including the closing of schools, is still in effect. The local Red Cross begins taking active steps in the community. Patterns for gauze masks may be secured at the Bartholomew County Hospital.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18—The State Board of Health extends the current ban for an additional six days. It is estimated there is at least 100 cases of Spanish Flu in Columbus and Bartholomew County.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22—City health officials report a total of three deaths in the county. The hotbed of activity is Clifty Township where four new cases appear. Overall, the number of cases within the county are decreasing.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23—At a meeting of physicians, the report is the Spanish Influenza pandemic is not epidemic in Bartholomew County. They stress prevention through ventilation (in this case, opening windows and doors), washing clothing, and other sanitary measures. All flu-like symptoms, no matter how mild, should be reported to health officers. In addition, they advise children should not play in fallen leaves. Five new cases are reported, bringing the total number within Columbus to seventeen (in contrast, 1,800 new cases are reported in Indianapolis).“The matter of quarantine is left to the good sense and patriotism of the people.”

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25—The statewide influenza ban is extended to November 2. Six new cases are reported in the city of Columbus. Schools remain closed. One precaution used by residents is wearing a small cloth sack filled with asafetida.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29—Three new cases of Spanish Flu are reported in the city, although health officials believe it is on the decline. Halloween trick-or-treating by children is allowed.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 30—The influenza ban is lifted in parts of Indianapolis. Columbus officials believe schools will be reopened on the following Monday.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1—City and health officials announce the influenza ban will be lifted the following day, Saturday. Schools will reopen Monday, November 4.


Columbus, IN


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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?