Springfield – Downtown History.

Downtown Springfield

City Hall

Fountain Square

Old Columbia Street Cemetery

The Madonna of the Trail

I’ve recently moved to Clark County in west-central Ohio, and I am naturally curious about the area. Springfield is the predominant small city in the county. Compared to Columbus, where I used to live, it is a modest place, but it is full of history and interesting architecture. I’ll be doing a variety of posts about attractions in the area in the coming years, along with other Ohio places of interest (don’t worry!).

I’ll start out by concentrating on the downtown area, looking at outdoor locations (COVID-19 has many building interiors closed for now).

A bit about Springfield. Situated on the Mad River, it was founded by James DeMint and James Daugherty in 1801. There are two stories about how it was named- one says it was named after Springfield Massachusetts; the other says that Simon Kenton’s wife named it due to all of the natural springs in the area. Springfield became an agricultural machinery production powerhouse and at one point was known as the City of Roses for the many millions of rose bushes grown and shipped from there. The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, a large publisher of magazines and books back in the day, was headquartered in the city. The 4-H Club was formed there at the beginning of the 20th century. Like many Midwestern cities, Springfield has had its challenges with declining industries and job numbers in recent decades. There is a revitalization movement underway, some of which will be seen in the following images.

City Hall

On the City Hall grounds there are two statues to area historical figures: George Rogers Clark, the near-legendary man that Clark County was named after, and Wright Brothers patent attorney Harry Toulmin Sr.

Fountain Square

Also known as the Esplanade, this area was called Market Square back in 1826 when it became the center of activity in Springfield. A statue honoring Oliver S. Kelly, businessman and Springfield benefactor, is located here. He made a fortune in building housing for miners the 1849 California Gold Rush, and gave back to the community in a big way.

Bordering the square is the impressive City Building, the former City Hall and large business market. It currently houses the Clark County Historical Society, a place I am eager to visit when it re-opens post-virus!

The building is a remarkable piece of architecture. You could examine it for hours.

Other Downtown Sights

There are plenty of other fascinating examples of architecture in the downtown area-

One of the murals of Project Jericho, which brightens the downtown area.

The Tecumseh Building, one of the several in the city that are on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an example of Early Commercial style architecture.

The Clark County courthouse (the third building to have that name) was built of limestone in the Second Empire style in the year 1878. It was extensively renovated after a fire in 1918.

The Main Post Office across the street from the courthouse was built in 1934 in the Art Deco style. Its walls are made of Ohio sandstone. Shades of Gotham City Batman!

The Covenant Presbyterian Church

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Dome, currently home to the Springfield Center for Innovation, is a 104-year-old former high school. They don’t build them like they used to!

Old Columbia Street Cemetery

In the middle of all of this interesting downtown architecture is a 4.5-acre plot of land full of history. Old Columbia Street Cemetery, also known as Demint Cemetery, is the oldest known cemetery in Clark County. As a matter of fact, it is the oldest place laid out by settlers that still exists in the county. James Demint, the first settler in Clark County in 1799 (though Simon Kenton brought a group of settlers to the area that same year) laid it out in 1804. His wife was the fourth person buried there. The cemetery saw its last burial in 1863. 12.5-acre Greenmount Cemetery along High Street to the east was created as a successor.

It is estimated that 200 graves are located there, though perhaps half of the gravestones remain. Many are not legible anymore. The Lagonda Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution did a major reconstruction and rededication of the old cemetery in the 1920’s. Some plaques were created to replace old tombstones.

This cemetery is old. Verifiable graves date to at least 1813.

Revolutionary War veterans are buried here.

Elijah Beardsley was a participant in the Boston Tea Party. This is a remarkable place in Ohio! Efforts have recently been underway for more attention and repair.

The Madonna of the Trail

The last place we will look at in downtown Springfield is a new location for a venerable monument. The National Road Commons Park contains a statue called the Madonna of the Trail, a tribute to pioneer women who made the western migration across the continent. Those ladies were very tough, spending months, even longer, on the trail.

This 18-foot-tall monument is actually one of twelve created and dedicated in the late 1920’s by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

They were placed along the National Road, the first federally-funded road in the United States. It opened commerce and movement between the east and west, so it is an appropriate location for these monuments.

Artist August Leimbach created the design in only three days, according to his grandson, and was paid $1,000 for each statue. Ten years later he was banished to Germany by the Americans, and later arrested by the Russians.

The poured algonite stone sculptures — a mixture of crushed marble, Missouri granite, stone, cement and lead ore — are identical. The historical info. on the base of each varies from locale to locale.

Nearly all of the five-ton pioneer moms face west, although subsequent contsruction projects have repositioned some statues in other directions.

The above inscription is specific to the Springfield Ohio location. I’ll have a post on this subject sooner or later.

There’s a lot more to see in Springfield- I’ll post more in the future here and there.

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