Arch Images, Part 1 – One Hunt Leading to Another…and on through the Portal of the Majestic Arch

A Distracted Search

Ah, the extents I go to to distract myself. But innocently!

All I wanted to do was find some vintage circa 1950s letterhead for the Majestic Theatre that I had heard was available on eBay.

Majestic TheatRE” didn’t net anything useful, and neither did “Majestic TheatER.” But “Chillicothe Ohio“?

Danger, Will Robinson!

980 results, most of them old postcards. Being visually fixated, especially of buildings and scenes, I had to browse them. After three days at 50 a page, I was still processing page 4!

Now that means for any that catch my eye, I’m copying the “webloc,” whatever scans of the postcard are available, and any descriptive text, into my hard-drive archive of Chillicothe and Ross County images.

Most of those images are my own digital photos of the last 10 years – snapped at any opportune moment and for any reason – but I snag anything else I can.

This includes “You Know You’re From Chillicothe, Ohio When…” on Facebook, various searches (including sidelines and distractions), anything emailed to me (please send me more!), a few needed scans of my own from collection of publications, and whatever scans I can have made of my slides* and black-and-white photos that number in the tens of thousands from c1984 to 2004.

Let’s see, my “Chillicothe” directory alone has 30,691 items comprising 34.64 gigabytes…ugh…better back up soon.  (Anyone need image support?  I’m for hire.)

Anyhow, back to eBay…

After reviewing some postcards and then obsessively trying to date them through comparison with anything I have in my library, I realized I am obliged to share my research to the wide world (or world wide web). Thus, here are the best of what I found regarding this image – which you might be able to possess yourself if you bid enough in time!  (And if I’m not too late…)**

1907 Nipgen & Walling

Postcard CHILLICOTHE OH 2nd Street East / Paint Street” caught my fancy and spurred my O/C disorder.

Tweaked a little by me for contrast, brightness, and saturation – but here’s the seller’s supposed 1907 postcard.  What busy sidewalks and crosswalks!

It’s a tinted photo attributed to 1907, a view looking east on Second Street through Paint Street. In the view is the south part of the Nipgen Block (1874, 67 through 59 North Paint), and the north end of the Waddle or Lansing Block (1844 and later, 39 through 49 North Paint), with a view directly down East Second Street right through the Majestic Arch.

It’s not postmarked, I could see no copyright date, and the seller mentions nothing on the back side of the postcard that would imply that year. Yet I have a date for the Majestic Arch that challenges that “1907,” and I also thought I might be seeing something else in the photo that may date it to even later – so, I took that as a challenge. Gauntlet dropped!

Columbus’ Loss is Chillicothe’s Gain?

Its hard to imagine that block of Second Street and the theater without the Majestic Arch. And yet, there was a time when it was at a different location, as well as not even there – supposedly being in Columbus.

(“Uh oh…he said ‘supposedly’…we’re in for a lecture now…shades of Indiana Jones in the classroom…”)   ; )

Picture 2-EC
A screen shot of my historical comment on a Columbus arch postcard posting…before I knew better (?). (Click on it to enlarge.)  Find this at Flikr:

You may be familiar with the 2002 dressing-up of North High Street in the “Short North” of Columbus with a series of electrically lit and computer-driven arches spanning the street. From a couple web articles:

“Today, there are 17 high-tech arches spanning High Street, which are the architectural signature of the Short North. The 21st century twist is LED technology, which adds the excitement of evening light shows, running on the hour, after dark.

“The individually programmable lights can be turned any of a million colors. The arches now provide a mile-long rainbow that has become the hallmark of the district.” 

A moderate-depth Google turned up articles on the arches and their history (though the writers need to corroborate and verify their facts).

Arch Generation

Today’s arches in Columbus are only the third generation of arches. A series of wooden arches with gaslights were the first, illuminating two major events:

“The city got its chance to strut its stuff in September 1888 as it played host to two massive events: the Centennial Exposition, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Northwest Territory, and the National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, a huge annual jamboree of the Civil War veterans of the Union Army.” 

The one photo I’ve seen of these originals imply thin triple arches about 40 feet high on poles – a bit different from their descendants. Large glass globes mark where the gaslights were on the wooden framework. (Yes, they were a little cavalier about flammability then.)

Picture 1b 1888-L
This lone photo of one of the original arches was the first historical image in the “Short North Arches” segment of “Short North – the Arch City.”  This is an episode of local PBS’ “Columbus Neighborhoods” series. One site forhe video segment is

These aging arches inspired permanent steel replacement arches starting in 1896, of steel (and/or iron) straps assembled into X’s in a trussed arch, mounted a little lower on (presumably) steel poles.

They were built variously by partnerships among the the consolidated and electrified streetcar company, city government, and businesses – and they gave Columbus the nickname of “Arch City” (official in 1909). The arches suspended power lines for the trolleys as well as lit the streets, but they also became a status symbol for High Street…and so other areas strove to raise more of them.

An image edited from the September 1900 Street Railway Journal. The article is available as a PDF in the website of “Columbus Railroads” at

The arches apparently started in the core of Columbus downtown, over High Street at the statehouse. Arches were quickly added south on High.

Picture 7-CA
Note these slightly longer arches, probably on Broad Street.***  This is another image from the video, viewable at
A smaller and atypical arch (though with similar motifs) over Mount Vernon Avenue – on yet another postcard available on eBay! Find it at

Between 1907 and 1908, the Short North got its own, and in 1909 West Broad Street jealously got theirs. Fourth Street at Main, and Mount Vernon Avenue, were also arched.

But “as early as 1911, cluster lights on poles on city sidewalks began to be favored. By 1914, most of the arches in downtown Columbus were gone.

…especially on High Street downtown.

Oh, how swift fancy flies! Can you imagine the change from a pleasantly arched street to none? The outcry…or lack thereof?

Urbanity was becoming very busy and distractible then – the viewing of arches may have gotten a back seat (maybe even a rumble seat) to dodging the increasing number of automobiles.

“Over the years, however, repair costs mounted and lampposts became the norm. By 1916, the arches disappeared altogether, and it would be nearly 100 years before they made their return.” 

What’s Olde is New

Speaking of jealousy, in 2009, “Old(e) North Columbus” north of the campus district – originally a separate town of its own as “North Columbus” – got its own two new arches.

Also…I was told that a crew came down from Columbus to measure our lone arch, and this data was used to get the imitation arches in the Short north fairly authentic looking.

(I can’t remember who told me that, and I’d like to know…was it you? It might have been the same one who told me Easton Town Center is modeled after Chillicothe’s downtown…)

A close approximation of the Majestic Arch in the former village of North Columbus in May of 2012. (But I thought they were going to be altered to read “OLDE NORTH”?) The old town is on High Street, framed by the arches between Hudson and Dodridge/Ackerman.

Downed by Widening and Saved from the Scrapper?

One of two major debunkings I had to do with this research is:  What brought the Columbus arches down?

It’s Chillicothe tradition that a widening of Columbus’ High Street doomed them and sent one our way. (The facades of many buildings were removed, cut back, and rebuilt in current styes – or the entire building was demolished.)

But that widening apparently happened 1915 to 1923. If the arches met their demise 1911-1916, maybe some arches still stood in the way – but it sounds like many were already gone.

Second debunking: Clearly our arch, rescued from Columbus, had to be modified to fit Second Street, the downtown’s narrowest street…or did it?

A comparison between Chillicothe's 2nd Street Arch, and two in Columbus: one probably on High Street, and a long one probably on Broad Street.
A comparison between Chillicothe’s 2nd Street Arch, and two in Columbus: one probably on High Street, and a long one probably on Broad Street.

More in part 2!

– not yet finis –

4 thoughts on “Arch Images, Part 1 – One Hunt Leading to Another…and on through the Portal of the Majestic Arch”

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