Arch Images, Part 2 – One Hunt Leading to Another…and on through the Portal of the Majestic Arch

Continuing with the saga of the “1907” postcard…and the Majestic Arch…and Columbus’ arches…and back to the Majestic Arch…

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. (It was drastic enough that the facades of many buildings there 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 – those probably on High Street, and long ones probably on Broad Street.

The three photos above approximately show the differences between the lengths of the main arches in Columbus and Chillicothe.  Just counting the segments, defined by vertical bars separating groups of X’s – regardless that some segments are of unequal lengths – I get these counts:

• Chillicothe Majestic Arch: 9 ‘segments’

• Columbus High Street: 10 ‘segments’

• Columbus Broad Street: 12 or 13 ‘segments’

Thus, the arch moved from Columbus had to be shortened for Second Street.  Some of the segments were removed.  Right?

Wrong!  It could not have been shortened.  Those are NOT segments.  (It took me a while to realize that!)

I kept looking at the arches from the front / back – the common street view.  But looking at them at an angle – especially the lone live specimen in Chillicothe – I realized that the arches are all one piece!  Except for an additional webbed strut at each end, there’s no seam in the structure.

I assumed they were modular, being bolted together to create the length you want, like an Erector Set.  Nope.  ‘Custom fit, please specify dimensions for individual tailoring.’  What I thought were seams were actually vertical struts reinforcing one arch to another.  (Yes, there’s two arches integrated there!)

And speaking of tailoring, who was the tailor?  Who built the arches?  But I get ahead of myself…

Chillicothe’s Virgin Arch?

In Pat Medert’s meticulous documenting of the buildings of downtown Chillicothe, she makes no mention of that supposed rescue from Columbus doom.

And, at a November 2011 meeting of the Ross County Genealogical Society meeting, Bob Manklin told me (and emailed a scan) of an article that announces the premiere lighting of that arch:

A November 20, 1909 article that announces the premiere lighting of the arch over 2nd Street, Chillicothe
A November 20, 1909 article that announces the premiere lighting of the arch over 2nd Street, Chillicothe

Note a few differences from today: There is no mention of it being a rescue from Columbus scrapping. There are only 16 bulbs, not the approximately 36 currently.

And another difference is that the area is currently and unfortunately under-enterprised – there are too many empty storefronts and entire buildings.

Not just the arch, but the demolition gap of a private parking lot, show the twice-over bustle of the half-block is now dormant.

(Have I cheerleaded the ides of developing it into an arts district? Huh? Huh? We’ll have young doctors in the re-enlivened Carlisle – let’s have young artists from OU-C etc. in the Majestic District!  I’ll drink to that potential (hint hint about a possible upcoming development there).)

Meanwhile, back at the eBay postcard: the Majestic Arch (pre-Majestic Arch? see below!) is clearly there over Second Street. So that indicates the photo dates to 1909 and later.

What few trees visible in the postcard appear to be leafless, though pedestrians are not wearing heavy coats – so it’s probably spring or fall. I’d vote for spring, so since the arch was installed in November, the postcard could be spring 1910 or later.


Also, the 1909 article states the arch was located “midway in the block between Paint street and the Opera House alley.” On page 37 of her Second Street volume, Pat Medert documents that to be spanning 25 to 26 East Second Street – at what is now the west edge of the Majestic Courtyard.  That is not where it is now, at the east edge.

That’s because Medert records that the arch was moved in November of 1915. She does not say so, but I’ll bet the new ownership of the Majestic as of February of that year had that done.

The Myers brothers not only renamed the Masonic Opera house into the “Majestic Theatre” at that time, but renovated it, and the arch re/moving may have been the finishing touch. That’s probably when the “VAUDEVILLE” sign visible in a Camp Sherman-era photo hanging underneath the arch was installed.  (Note in the postcard, there’s no signs at all on the arch!)

And yet again, back to that eBay postcard: looking closely, and comparing with my own impatient twilight center-street photo using a (very) approximate lens size – it looks like in the postcard, the arch is at its 1909-1915 location at 25-26 East 2nd, not at the current location at approximately 47-48 East 2nd.

Getting a little dark to see, but a September 1st 2014 view that pretty much matched the "1807" postcard photo.
Getting a little dark to see, but a September 1st 2014 view pretty much matches the “1907” postcard photo.

Note how in the postcard, the left (north) post of the arch is in line with the front edge of the Majestic.  In mine, the post is farther out in front of the Majestic, in line with the front edge of the marquee (not present in the postcard).  Perspective dictates that the location of the arch in the postcard is closer to the camera than in my almost-same-perspective photo.

Created by AccuSoft Corp
About the same area, angle, and lens size: a crop of the “1907” postcard; my frigid center-street photo from February of 2010, and a more closely approximate photo from this September 1st…with trees in the way.

So, that narrows the date range further for the postcard, to October 1909 to November 1915.

A Few Stats…or, “Now for Something Completely Technical”

I have trained myself to create a detailed analysis of major subjects when I look into them, even if I don’t include that information in my writings.  But, just to get wordy…and using $10 words…here’s an analytical morphology of the Majestic Arch, to the best of my historical engineering* / Industrial Archaeological** knowledge.

Here’s something to chill your September dog days – but last winter’s snow enhances the structure of the Majestic Arch. (Ok, at the date of this amendment, it’s not nearly so hot!)

It appears to be best described as a ‘duplex’ trussed structure with 1) a typical (vertical) arch that is a lattice, plus 2) an attached horizontal top chord lattice.

These two main components are:

1) A hingeless Arch Truss composed of a Double-Intersection (two-way) Lattice, similar to a Double-Intersection Warren Truss

  • hingeless arch = no bend in the curve
  • double-intersection (two-way) = the diagonals cross once at center
  • lattice = a flat structure of only angled linear components – though framed by rectilinear components – where the diagonals are undifferentiated and massed to create most of the structure
    • in other words, a bunch of X’s that serve as a beam or plate

The end ‘fishtails’ introduce an approximately 2 1/2-intersection-width lattice in an expansion atop the arch. (Yes, ‘fishtails’ is my attempt at a term!)

2) An attached Top Chord Lattice

This is not a truss, but simply a secondary stiffening component that would be inherently weak on its own.

  • attached – riveted to the top of the arch truss, with bracing from the bottom of the truss
  • Top Chord = upper component of the web of truss structure
  • Lattice = a bunch of X’s that serve as a beam or plate

Unlike the Lattice Arch Truss, this is essentially just “fencing” of the same pattern and size that, instead of being used as a guardrail on a bridge, is the upper stiffening component of the arch.

  • With the Lattice Arch Truss mounted onto the centerline of the Top Chord Lattice, that creates a third line running down the center of the X’s.

And then the Top Chord Lattice slims down to a single connector at both ends – which is doubled: a duplicate of the lattice is riveted to the top towards the end.

  • As the main Top Chord Lattice angles down, interwoven through the Lattice Arch Truss and connecting to the pole at the lower corner…the upper lattice angles up at the top of the fishtail to connect to the pole at the top corner.

Ok, a picture paints a thousand words…or maybe 2,000 shorter, non-$10 words! To the side is a good angle of the arch – a snow-sifted view from above.

Not so “1907” any more!

Back to the Future Topics

Ok, I’ve wandered around and stalled out, so I need to end this for the sake of completion.  (File that in the Department of Redundancy Department.)  But this exploration / journey / delusional meandering into postcards, arches, and ties (or not) between Chillicothe and Columbus has led me in a myriad of directions, including but not limited to:

  • possible WWI / Camp Sherman efficiency apartments
  • various kinds of electric street lighting
  • other kinds of street arches
  • when phone and electrical wiring appeared in downtown Chillicothe…and was buried!
  • when downtown Chillicothe streets were paved
  • recalling memories of the Maple Grove Road bridge

…all possible targets for another blog.  Or not!

Oops – and who made these arches?  After searches and searches and searches on the internet – I found only ONE maker mentioned, for a weird four-way tubular arch in New York state.

There are what appers to be the same Columbus and Chillicothe type lattice arches in Saginaw, Michigan and Manchester, New Hampshire…but who manufactured them?  

Gauntlet dropped.


* If you want a good beginning chart on trusses, see a free PDF of the classic HAER / IA truss chart

** Industrial Archaeology is a recent (1960s) appreciation for the rough-and-tumble, hard-edged, form-follows-function, hidden-in-plain-sight structures, complexes, and landscapes of engineering and industry.  

– NOW finis! –

Published by:

Kevin B. Coleman

Pre/historian, architectural historian, re-enactor, guide, reporter, speaker, writer, gardener, craftsperson, husbandman, et al., who can work in stone (flint knapping, flintlock, silicon chip) among other things and who is determined to use my knowledge, wisdom, and personal survival to help the greater good. At least, my cats and dog here in semi-rural Ohio tell me that.

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