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Broad and High Street

History of Broad & High Streets

Ever notice that when you travel to some cities, it's easy to get lost? Columbus was blessed by having a designer that laid out the city from scratch and believed in the old design concept of grids.

Broad and High Street

Broad and High Street 1863 With Horse Drawn Trolley

At the heart of Columbus is Broad and High Street. This where north, south, east and west are defined in the Columbus. These two streets were the first streets laid out by the city designer. They were named for their characteristics. High Street ran along a high ridge along the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. Along this ridge was an old Indian trail than actually ran all the way to Lake Erie. Broad Street was named because a horse drawn wagon could turn around in the street without having to backup.

When Ohio became a state, the first capitol was in Chillicothe. This was a little frustrating for governmental types, because they had to travel a week just to get to Chillicothe. After some wrangling, they decided to move the capitol to Zanesville. This turned out to be even worse. So they decided to put the capitol back in Chillicothe while they decided what to do. Someone got the bright idea to try and please everyone by putting the capitol in the middle of the state in a brand new town so nobody could complain. The location was called Columbus, after Chris. The problem was, there wasn't anything there, which was good and bad. Good in that they could lay out the new city from scratch, bad, because there wasn't anything here. There was Franklinton on the west side of the Scioto River, but it was on the west side of the river.

The State General Assembly hired Joel Wright to survey the track of land. Joel already had experience laying out cities including Louisville, Dayton and Springboro.

Broad and High

Broad and High Street 1913

Starting in 1812, his first task was to create a square where the State Capitol would be located. This land was cleared of trees by Jarvis Pike, and in return for his work, Jarvis was allowed to grow corn on Capitol Square until construction began on the statehouse.

Next, Joel Wright laid out the street grid for Columbus, he created 2 main roads that formed the heart of the city and bounded Capitol Square on the North and West. One road ran north and south on the high banks of the Scioto River. This thoroughfare became known as High Street. The other main artery ran east and west and as Joel designed it, this thoroughfare was going to be 120' wide, and would be the broadest street in the new city. That street became known as Broad Street. His purpose for the broad street was so that a coach and a team of 4 horses could make a U-turn in the street without problems.

Having come out of semi-retirement to plot out Columbus, Joel wasn't too happy about the compensation he received from the General Assembly. In 1813 he did get paid $503 at which time, Joel resigned his commission and handed it over to William Ludlow who was appointed the 2nd director of the town of Columbus in February 1815.