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The Streets and Life of Columbus during the 1930s Captured in Photos

The 1930s was a crucial time for Columbus, Ohio, deeply marked by the scars of the Great Depression yet also by the city’s indomitable spirit of resilience and recovery. This era, fraught with economic hardship and social upheaval, nonetheless showcased Columbus’s ability to adapt and gradually reclaim its path to growth, mirroring the broader national struggle and eventual rebound during these tumultuous years.

Economic Challenges

The economic calamity brought on by the Great Depression in 1929 hit Columbus hard, with skyrocketing unemployment, failing businesses, and pervasive poverty. In the face of these adversities, Columbus became a focal point for New Deal initiatives under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These projects not only aimed to jumpstart the economy but also to bolster public infrastructure, creating jobs and improving the city’s facilities through the enhancement of roads, parks, and public buildings.

Urban Development and Housing Initiatives

Housing and urban development were critical areas of focus during the 1930s, as the economic crisis exacerbated existing challenges. The federal government’s New Deal programs introduced public housing projects in Columbus, aimed at providing affordable living options for the city’s low-income residents and revitalizing construction activity. These efforts marked the dawn of organized public housing in Columbus, seeking to mitigate the dire housing shortages and improve living conditions.

The 1930s also saw advancements in transportation within Columbus. The streetcar system, a vital part of the city’s infrastructure, continued to expand, connecting neighborhoods and facilitating movement within the growing city.

The arts and culture scene also found ways to thrive amidst the challenges. The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, now known as the Columbus Museum of Art, provided a space for creativity and expression. The city’s theaters, like the Ohio Theatre and the Palace Theatre, offered affordable entertainment and a much-needed escape from everyday worries.

#1 Oddfellows Hall building fire in 1936, with firefighter casualties, 1936.

#2 Advertisement for “The Ghost goes West” at the Ohio Theatre, 1935.

#3 Aerial view of the Columbus riverfront, showing the Olentangy-Scioto Intercepting sewer, circa 1930.

#4 Aerial view looking north of downtown Columbus, featuring LeVeque Tower, 1930.

#6 Automobile accident in front of Loew’s Broad Theater, featuring “Yes my darling daughter”, 1933

#7 Billboards along Pennsylvania Avenue before sewer construction, photo witnessed by C. W. Schoene, June 1, 1932.

#9 Clark Used Auto Sales and Service at Seymour and Livingston Avenues, before construction of a 15-inch sewer, 1936.

#10 Brick double occupancy dwelling on Water and Randolph Streets, southwest corner, photograph from October 12, 1930.

#11 Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (Columbus Museum of Art), banners advertising 77th Annual Columbus Art League Exhibition, 1987, chartered in 1878, opened January 22, 1931.

#12 Columbus Public Library’s Milo branch, established as the fifth branch and replaced by a bookmobile stop in 1950, Circa 1930.

#13 Double Decker Street Car used on Columbus, Ohio’s North & South High Street lines, 1930s

#14 Construction views of the Fifth Avenue Dam over the Olentangy River, 1935.

#15 Crowds outside of the Loew’s Broad Theater, Columbus, for “Prison Farm” in 1938.

#17 Derelict building covered with burlesque theater ads, part of Olentagy-Scioto sewer project, November 5, 1939.

#18 View west on East Broad Street from Washington Avenue, Columbus, 1938.

#19 Ferrier shop at the corner of Randolph and Water Streets, October 12, 1930.

#20 Fire trucks at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Champion Avenue, Columbus, October 1939.

#21 Bridge damage from August 1935 flood in Franklin County

#22 G-M Battery and Ignition Company building at 43 South 4th Street, 1930.

#23 Young boys in church garb on the front steps of Holy Rosary Church, Columbus, 1930s

#24 Hartman farm’s main house, established in 1890 and known for Peruna patent medicine, 1938.

#25 Hartman farm buildings including general store and grain elevators, 1938.

#26 Hartman farm dairy buildings, established in 1890 by Samuel B. Hartman, 1938.

#27 High-Frank Garage at 2228 So. High Street, Columbus, 1930s

#28 Holton’s Fourth-Oak Service Station in Columbus, owned by Lou Holton from 1930 to 1941, circa 1935.

#29 Workers’ homes on Hartman farm known for Peruna medicine, 1938

#30 Indianola Theater, opened February 17, 1938, Clintonville, 1939.

#31 Rescue workers retrieving victims of the Columbus, Ohio prison fire, where over three hundred convicts died, bodies loaded onto Army trucks for transport to a temporary morgue

#32 D McCulloch tees off against Archie Compston in a trial match for the Great Britain team selection for the Ryder Cup, Columbus, Ohio

#33 African American itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1935

#34 A couple enjoys a ride at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park near Columbus, Ohio, Summer 1938

#35 People eating at the Feed Box, a food stand at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park near Columbus, Ohio, Summer 1938

#36 Lunch room with its menu painted on the window, Columbus, Ohio, August 1938

#37 Fields and farm building at Hartman Farms near Columbus, Ohio, Summer 1938.

#38 Fields and farm building at Hartman Farms near Columbus, Ohio, Summer 1938.

#39 Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio, August 1938.

#42 Secondhand furniture store in Columbus, Ohio, August 1938.

#43 Swimming pool at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#44 Scenic view at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#45 Possibly related to murals on Convention Hall at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#46 View of Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#47 Scene at Buckeye Lake Amusement Park, Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#48 Worker homes at Hartman Farms, near Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

#49 Residential area for workers at Hartman Farms, near Columbus, Ohio, 1938.

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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