What Columbus, Ohio looked like in the 1940s through these Fascinating Historical Photos

The 1940s in Columbus, Ohio, were a time of immense change and growth.  Emerging from the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II, the city pulsed with a newfound energy.  The streets bustled with activity, reflecting a community that was rebuilding and redefining itself.

The war effort had left its mark on Columbus.  Factories that once produced consumer goods had been retooled to support the military, churning out airplanes, tanks, and other vital equipment.  The Curtiss-Wright Corporation, for example, became a major employer, drawing workers from across the state to its massive airplane manufacturing plant.  Many women entered the workforce for the first time, filling positions traditionally held by men who were serving overseas.  This shift in demographics challenged societal norms and paved the way for future generations of women to pursue careers outside the home.

With the end of the war, Columbus experienced a surge in population.  Returning veterans, eager to start families and build new lives, flocked to the city.  This influx created a demand for housing, leading to the development of new suburbs like Upper Arlington and Bexley.  These communities offered spacious homes with modern amenities, a stark contrast to the crowded apartments and aging houses of the inner city.

Downtown Columbus remained the heart of the city.  High Street, with its grand department stores like Lazarus, F&R Lazarus, and Morehouse-Martens, was a shopper’s paradise.  Families strolled down the bustling sidewalks, admiring window displays and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.  Movie theaters like the Ohio and the Palace offered escape and entertainment, showcasing the latest Hollywood films.  For a taste of local flavor, residents could catch a Columbus Red Birds minor league baseball game at Red Bird Stadium.

The city’s German heritage was still evident in the 1940s, particularly in the German Village neighborhood.  Traditional restaurants served hearty dishes like sauerkraut and schnitzel, while bakeries offered a tempting array of pastries and breads.  The annual Oktoberfest celebration was a highlight, drawing crowds with its lively music, dancing, and, of course, plenty of beer.

As the decade progressed, the automobile became increasingly important in the lives of Columbus residents.  Car ownership soared, and with it, the need for better roads and infrastructure.  The construction of freeways, such as the Outerbelt, facilitated travel and connected the growing suburbs to the downtown core.  Drive-in restaurants, like the iconic Hamburger Inn on North High Street, catered to this new car culture, offering a convenient and casual dining experience.

#1 A group of men playing craps, one sitting on a truck’s tailgate, at a transport facility on the banks of the Scioto River with the Neil House hotel in the background, Columbus, Ohio.

#2 Downtown skyline looking east from Washington Boulevard, 1940s

#3 AmVets Post No 8 band marching downtown, featuring Adam Hat Store and Nathan’s Gift Shop, 1948.

#4 View across Arlington Avenue in Upper Arlington, featuring Arlington Drugs and First National Cleaners, 1945.

#5 Original Beechwold Hardware store, started by Forrest Smith at 4591 North High Street, 1940s

#6 Bruce K Wiseman house, exterior photograph, Tremont Road, 1948.

#7 Cambridge Arms Apartments, with Camel cigarette truck, built in 1928, listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1986 but removed in 1987, restored in 2005, Circa 1948.

#9 City Window Cleaning Company Truck on East Main Street in Bexley, passing notable buildings including Hatch’s Shell Service and Moody & Straley Funeral Home, 1946.

#10 Clintonville Cycle Store, specialized in American and English light weight bicycles, owned by Joe Dignan and Stan Yoe, 1947.

#11 Broad-Ohio Apartments, corner of Ohio Avenue and Broad Street, built as early as 1926, photograph from 1948.

#12 Brent and Grange Buildings at E Town Street and S High Street, featuring Bloom Fur Company and Rainbow Flower Shop, 1947

#13 Columbus Civic Center, view looking east across Scioto River featuring Federal Building, City Hall, A.I.U. Citadel (LeVeque Tower), and Ohio Departments of State Building, 1945.

#14 Columbus Refuse Incinerator Central Plant, a 1935 Public Works Administration project, 1940s

#17 Douglas DC-3-382 NC1946 at Port Columbus, crashed in 1942

#18 Downtown Columbus looking east along Broad Street with landmarks, 1945.

#19 East Broad Street Parade with Brunson Bank & Trust and Chamber of Commerce Building, 1940s

#20 Rooftop view of Modern Finance Building and Ohio State Savings Building on East Gay Street, 1940s

#21 Bronzeville scenes at Long and Garfield, featuring Empress Theatre and other businesses, 1945.

#22 Enzor’s Restaurant at 782 West State Street, Columbus, 1940s

#23 Streetcar No. 769 boarding passengers on High St. near 11th Ave., 1947.

#24 University Hall at The Ohio State University, Columbus, 1940s

#25 Hospital, U.S. Barracks, Columbus, Ohio, later Fort Hayes, Crica 1940s

#27 Huntington National Bank building, photograph of High Street entrance, 1940s

#29 On-field action during a football game between Ohio State University and the University of Iowa at Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, 1948, with Iowa winning 14-7

#30 Aerial view of a train traveling along a river under a bridge, billowing smoke near Columbus, Ohio, in the 1940s

#31 Possibly related to buses at Greyhound station, Columbus, Ohio, 1943.

#32 Possibly related to parking lot signage for buses, Columbus, Ohio, 1943.

#34 Fond Du Lac Amvets Post No 8 Band marching downtown Columbus, 1947.

#35 Fond Du Lac Amvets Post No 8 Band on High and Broad Streets, Columbus, 1947.

#36 Front doors to Park Street Elementary School, originally constructed in 1867, demolished April 29, 1948.

#37 George M. Morris Apartment Building, named after Ohio State Department of Education inspector, photograph, 1940.

#38 Harry Edward Markins and William Riley Barnett outside Barnett Realty office on Sullivant Avenue, 1940s

#39 Harry P. Wolfe and Albert O. Halliday Houses on East Broad Street, 1948.

#40 Harry T. Roderick house, Columbus architect, 1948.

#41 City Window Cleaning Company renovating Greek Orthodox Church on N Park St. and Goodale St., 1946.

#42 Group in front of 196 Hawkes Avenue, Columbus, photograph, Summer 1945.

#43 President Harry S. Truman’s visit to Columbus, Ohio, March 6, 1946.

#44 Heyne Zimmerman and Shedd Dunn Houses on East Broad Street, Columbus, 1948.

#45 Streetcar No. 760 at Chittenden Ave. and N. High St., 1947.

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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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