|THE OLD STATE HOUSE, THE OFFICES, YARD, ETC.
When State House erected—Description—Mottoes—Destruction by fire—Where Legislature then met—Erection and description of offices—U. S. Court House, etc.—Removal of the Courts—County Offices on the State ground—Fencing of the Square, etc.
THE old State House was situated on the south-west corner of the Public Square, about equi-distant from State and High streets, and about eighteen or twenty feet from the inner side of the pavements. It was erected in 1814; Benjamin Thompson was the undertaker of the stone and brick work, except the cutting of the stone for the foundation, etc., which was done by Messrs. Drummon and Scott; George McCormick and Conrad Crisman, were the undertakers of the carpenter work; Gotleib Leightenaker, of the plastering; and Conrad Heyl, of the painting. The freestone for the foundation, and window and door sills, was drawn on wagons, from Black Lick, some twelve or fourteen
miles, through swamps and excessive mud. The brick were partly made out of a beautiful mound that stood on the summit of the high ground just at the southwest intersection of High and Mound streets, from which Mound street derived its name; and although this mound has long since entirely disappeared, and even the high ground on which it stood has been removed in the grading of streets, and the foundation of the large German Church, yet in referring to that part of the town, we frequently speak of the mound as though it yet existed. In this mound, as in other similar works of antiquity, were found numerous human skeletons, so that what once formed human bodies, centuries after formed part of the walls of the Ohio State House. The house was a common, plain brick building, seventy-five feet north and south, by fifty feet east and west on the ground, and two lofty stories high, with a square roof, that is, eaves and cornice at both sides and ends, and ascending to the balcony and steeple in the center; in which was a first-rate, well-toned bell. The top of the spire was one hundred and six feet from the ground. On the roof adjoining the balcony, on two sides, were neat railed walks, from which a spectator might view the whole town as upon a map, and had also a fine view of the winding Scioto, and of the level country around as far as the eye could reach.
The foundation of the building was cut stone, to the height of nearly two feet, and there was a belt of cut stone in the outer side of the wall at the height of the first story. The main entrance was a door in the middle of the south end; and on entering, there were stairs both on the right and on the left, leading to the gallery and also to the Senate Chamber. In the lower story were the Representatives' Hall, (in the north end of the building,) two committee rooms, and a gallery. In the second story, the Senate Chamber and two committee rooms, but no gallery. There was a west or front door from the Representatives' Hall towards High street, and also on east or back door from the hall into the woodyard.
The halls were of good size and respectable wooden finish, but no marble. The large wooden columns were handsomely turned — the workmanship of our late fellow-townsman, William Altman, now deceased, and were painted in imitation of clouded marble. Over the west door was a well-dressed stone slab, about five by two and a half feet surface, built into the wall, with the following patriotic inscription engraved thereon:
Over the south door was another stone of about the same size, with a verse of about the same length and character, from the same author. This stone was either destroyed in the fall of the building, or has since been lost, and its inscription cannot be given.
Over the east door was a stone of about half the size of one of the others, with a motto of Mr. Ludlow's own inscribed on it, of which the following is a copy:
Early in the morning of the first day of February, 1852, the old State House was consumed by fire. Thus the old State House and the old State Constitution expired within a few days of each other. The Ohio State
Journal of the second of February, makes the following announcement of itis destruction:
"GREAT CONFLAGRATION!—THE STATE HOUSE DESTROYED!—Yesterday (Sunday) morning, about four o'clock, the cry of fire rang through our streets. It was soon ascertained that the old State House was on fire. The watch first discovered it in the center of the Senate Chamber, and on the floor. This was nearly extinguished, when it was discovered that the timbers over head were on fire. Soon it burned out through the roof, and the entire belfry was quickly in flames. The engines could not reach the fire, and it was evident that the venerable old edifice, in which the Legislature of Ohio had met for the last thirty-five years, was doomed to destruction. The belfry, after burning brilliantly for a few minutes, came down with a crash upon the floor of the Senate Chamber. The roof then gradually fell in, and the upper story of the building was a mass of flames. An effort was now made to confine the fire to the Senate Chamber and upper rooms, but there was too heavy a mass of burning matter on the floor to be extinguished, and soon the flames reached the Hall of the House of Representatives. The origin of the fire has not yet been ascertained. The desks, chairs and furniture had been removed, and the entire building was then resigned
to its fate. In the Senate Chamber very little was saved. We learn that the clerk's papers were all secured, but that a large mass of documents, journals, constitutional debates, etc., were consumed."
The cause of the fire was never satisfactorily ascertained. In the ensuing spring the remains of the building were removed, and the ungainly high board fence that had so long enclosed the public square was extended round the site of the old building.
The remainder of the session of the House of Representatives sat in Mr. Neil's Odeon Hall, and the Senate in the United States Court House, on the opposite side of the street. And the next winter, 1852-3, the House of Representatives again sat in the Odeon Hall, and the Senate in Mr. Ambos's Hall. In the winter of 1853-4, the regular session, both branches occupied the same halls as the preceding winter. In 1854-5, no legislative session. In 1855-6, they again occupied the Odeon and Ambos's Halls, and in the winter of 1856-7, they for the first time held their session in the new State House.
Of those who assisted in the erection of the old State House, there are still living in the city or vicinity, Jacob Hare, who kept a team and helped to haul the stone for the foundation, Conrad Heyl, principal painter, and
Geo. B. Harvey, who was employed on it as carpenter through its whole construction.
In connection with the State House, the writer's better half here reminds him of a little social sewing party that put together the first carpet for the State House, in the fall of 1816. Of which party she was one, and the only surviving one that she now recollects. Mrs. George McCormick and Mrs. George B. Harvey were of the party, but they are now no more.
Governor Worthington, by invitation, convened a dozen or more ladies of the town in the Hall of the House for the purpose above named, favored them with his company and some of his fine apples from his Ross County orchard, and they spent the day industriously and cheerfully on the task to which they had been invited, and in the evening partook of a cup of tea with the necessary accompaniments served up at Mr. John Martin's, just across the street from the State House.
The State offices were erected the year after the State House, (1815.) B. Thompson was the contractor for laying up the walls, but died before the job was done. His contract, however, was completed under the control of his widow. M. Patton was undertaker of the carpenter work, and Leightenaker and Heyl of the plastering and painting.
This building was situated about fifty or sixty feet
north of where the State House stood, and in a direct line with it. It was a plain two-story brick building, one hundred and fifty feet long by twenty-five feet deep; fronting on High street. It had a rough stone foundation, and a belt of cut stone along the front and ends of the height of the first story, a common comb roof of joint shingles, and four front doors, one toward the north end to enter the Secretary's office, two toward the south end to the Auditor's office, one of which, however, was kept closed and not used, and a large door in the center. Immediately inside of the center door, by turning to the left you entered the Governor's office, or by turning to the right the Treasurer's office, or by advancing without turning to the right or the left you ascended on a winding stairs to the second story, which was always appropriated principally for the State Library, but formerly was used also for the Quarter-Master and Adjutant General's offices, and by times for other public officers. The two front doors to the Auditor's office rather injured the symmetrical appearance of the building from the street.
This building was removed in the spring of 1857, preparatory to the grading of the public square.
All these public buildings were made under the superintendence of William Ludlow, Esq., the agent of the State, appointed for that purpose. Although no
architect, nor much acquainted with building, he was a faithful agent, a man of some talent, and unquestionable integrity—a Democrat of the old school, with strong prejudices against the very name of the federal, as was evidenced in the alteration of the word federal to union, in the quotation from Barlow's poem on the stone over the west door of the State House. The workman had (following the copy from the book) cut the words "Federal Band," before observed by Mr. Ludlow. But this would not do, although applied only to the Union of the States. The word was objectionable, and hence the engraving was filled up as well as it could be done, and the word "union" cut over it, so as to read "Union Band." Toward the last years of the old State House the composition with which the word had been covered over, on which union was engraved, had fallen off, and the old word federal again appeared.
The United States Court House stood in a line with the State House and State offices, and about fifty or sixty feet north of the latter. It was also a plain brick building, two stories high, with a rough stone foundation. It was probably about forty-five or forty-six feet square, and the roof ascended from the four sides to a circular dome in the center. The front had a recess entrance about the size of a large portico, but with in the line of the front wall. The same recess ex-
tended up through the second story, thus affording a pleasant view of the street from the second story. On the lower floor there was a hall through the center, and two rooms on each side, one of which was used for the office of the Clerk of the United States Court, one as an office for the Marshal, and one as a jury room. On the second story was the court room and one jury room.
This building was erected in the year 1820. It was done in part by the State appropriating a certain amount of uncurrent funds of the Miami Exporting Company then in Treasury, to that purpose; both the greater amount was raised by donations from the citizens of Columbus, and the United States Courts were removed from Chillicothe about the year 1821. Harvey D. Evans was then Clerk of said Court, and Dr. John Hamm, of Zanesville, Marshal. After Evan's death in 1825, he was succeeded in the clerkship by Wm. K. Bond, then of Chillicothe; and about the year 1829 or 1830, Bond was succeeded by William Miner, who still holds the office. Dr. Hamm, as Marshal, was succeeded by William Doherty, and Doherty by Gen. John Patterson, from Jefferson County, and he by a man of his own name John Patterson of Adams County, and Patterson, by Demas Adams, Adams by John McElvain, McElvain by D. A. Robertson, of
In the spring of 1855, the State having been divided into two Districts, the United States Courts were removed from Columbus to Cincinnati and the Court House was soon after torn down.
Back of the United States Court House was a long one story brick building, erected by the county about the year 1828 or 1829, for county offices. It was divided into four apartments, with an outside door to each. The north room was for the Clerk of Court, the next one to it for the Recorder, the next for the Treasurer, and the fourth or south one for the County Auditor; and the county offices were kept here from the time the building was erected until the summer of 1840, when they were removed to the new County Court House, at the corner of Mound and High streets. This building was not removed until the spring of 1857, when the State House square was graded.
The public square on which these buildings stood, was originally cleared of its native timber, etc., by Jarvis Pike, (generally styled Judge Pike, having once been a Judge in the State of New York,) under the direction of Governor Worthington, about the years 1815 and 1816. The Governor resided in Chillicothe, and some misunderstanding having arisen between Pike
and him as to the terms or conditions of their contract, on the occasion of one of his visits to Columbus, Pike had him arrested on capias and conducted by a constable before 'Squire King, and the matter was decided in Pike's favor—perhaps adjusted without trial. But the circumstance was the subject of frequent jocular remarks, in which the 'Squire was always ready to join.
The square was enclosed with a rough rail fence, and Pike farmed the ground some three or four years, and raised wheat, corn, etc., till the fence got out of order, and was finally destroyed; and the square lay in commons a number of years, until the summer and fall of 1834, when it was enclosed by Jonathan Neereamer with a neat and substantial fence of cedar posts and white painted palings, which was done under the direction of Alfred Kelley, Esq., as agent for the State. And near the same time, either the preceding or the succeeding winter, he had the elm trees now standing on the square removed from their native forest and planted where they are. Their stalks were then perhaps from four to six inches in diameter. They were taken up when the ground was frozen hard, so that perhaps half a ton of frozen earth adhered to the roots, and by having large holes prepared, the earth
was never loosened from the roots, and the trees generally did well, but still some have died.
In the spring of 1839, the neat paling fence was removed to give place to the ungainly rough board fence, about twelve feet high, which was erected fro a kind of semi-prison in which to work the Penitentiary prisoners on the new building; and it stood there as a blur upon the face of the town until the recollection of many of our young people, who had in the meantime grown from childhood to maturity, did not extend back to the time when it did not esist. A part of the white paling fence was bought by Mr. Whitehill, with which his lots, at the corneer of State and Fourth streets, are still enclosed.
On the 4th of July, 1839, the corner stone of the new State House was laid.
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