Landmarks and historic architecture on US 40 and the National Road Columbus

The National Road and US 40 enter Columbus from the east along Main Street and soon reach the town of Bexley, which Columbus surrounds. What many don’t know is that the National Road and US 40 take different paths when they reach Bexley. US 40 turns north on Drexel Avenue and then left on Broad Street. The National Road keeps going on Main Street through downtown until it crosses the Scioto River, where it curves around on Starling Street and then turns left onto Broad Street, rejoining US 40. This map shows the National Road in green and how US 40 differs from it in blue. Click it to see it larger.

The road is nicely tree-lined in Bexley; it is clearly a very nice part of greater Columbus.

Beautiful Downtown Bexley

One of Bexley’s best-known places, at least among those present on the National Road, is Rubino’s Pizza. It’s been in operation since 1954.


I’m told that the Drexel Theater is considered a local landmark. It certainly has a wonderful sign, which along with the building dates to the 1930s.

Drexel Theater

I stayed on Main Street, of course, past where US 40 turned away. As I neared downtown I became impressed by how many older buildings have been well preserved. I wish Indianapolis had the same preservationist spirit.

Downtown Columbus on Main St.

Main Street is one way eastbound downtown, and I was headed west, so I parked my car and walked. This building features the familar script of the Ford Motor Company logo. It’s in the triangle with wings at the top center of the building’s facade. (You can see it best here.) I’m guessing this was once a Ford dealership, but when I took this photo it was home to the Karlsberger Company, an architectural firm. Less than 30 days after I took this photo, Karlsberger ceased operations.

Ford building

I spotted this ghost sign on a building just down the block from the Ford building.

Lutheran Book Concern

As I neared High Street, which is Colubus’s east-west dividing line, I was drawn to this wonderful ornate archway and sign.

Southern Theatre

Check out this detail! I probably spent 20 minutes here enjoying and photographing this great arch. If you click this photo, you’ll go to Flickr where you can navigate to other photos I took of this arch’s details.

Southern Theatre

The Southern Theatre is part of the enormous Great Southern Hotel, which was completed in 1896. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a Westin property today. As massive as the Southern Theatre’s arch is when you stand before it, the building to which it is attached overwhelms it.

Great Southern Hotel

I continued westward toward the Scioto River. This building, which I believe was once an armory, stands on the southwest corner at Second Street. See the ornate eagle and shield on the corner? It once adorned the battleship USS Ohio.

Downtown Columbus on Main St.

From here I could clearly see the brand new bridge that crosses the Scioto River. She’s a real beauty, and I’ll share photos next time.

The National Road features plenty of great historic architecture. Check out New Market, Maryland; Wheeling, West Virginia; and Centerville, Indiana.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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6 responses to “Landmarks and historic architecture on US 40 and the National Road Columbus”

  1. Tori Nelson Avatar

    Love all the detail in older architecture. Kind of makes me wonder why we make everything so boxy now.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Tori! I think the boxiness comes from suburban sprawl and the desire to build quickly and at low cost.

      Check out this post from today on a blog I follow about a Kroger grocery store built in the 1930s. It still stands and is still a grocery today. Don’t you wish Kroger could build something this beautiful now?

  2. CarolS Avatar

    I am so enjoying your pictures and comments about Columbus, my hometown. I lived there all my life until I married late in life in 2003 and moved to TX and really miss being there and enjoying all the beauty. I can remember when downtown had a lot of the old brick buildings throughout the downtown area and it makes me sick to see Columbus destroy so many, buildings built with hard labor and so much character, for the plain things they build today. (the history of the Franklin County Court House being a good example) The Great Southern Hotel is fire proof, something proven when they had a fire back in the 70s or 80s ~ only one room was damaged. Pretty smart for someone in the 1800s, huh? :) The building you show across the street from the old Ford dealership at 3rd and Main was a Zettler Hardware store for many years. I have faint memories of the Ford Dealership from when I was a kid and dad would stop at the light… I always wondered how they got those big cars in that small building ~ lol Bexley is an older, well-to-do community where many Jewish families settled years ago. Thank you so much for your labor of love and for sharing all this with us. Glad you are able to get out and document so much. I have post polio syndrome so most of my travel days are done but surfing the net and seeing things like what you have shared helps me get out in the world again. I have a huge collection of pictures of old buildings and such that I want to get in a book to pass on to my niece who is going to be a history teacher (almost done with her Masters). I hope it’s okay if I use some of your pictures to share with her. Thank you and God bless.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You are very welcome to share my photos. I’m glad my post brought back so many pleasant memories for you!

  3. Harold Greene Avatar
    Harold Greene

    I was born and raised (mid-1950s) in Columbus, Ohio, and these buildings are all in my old stomping grounds. I last lived in Columbus in 1975, but Columbus is in my blood, heart, and soul. Currently, one of my sisters lives almost immediately across Main St. from the Zettler hardware building. My Dad used to take me there when I was a kid. He was a do-it-yourself-er, and intimately knew every hardware store in Columbus. My friends and I used to go into the Greater Southern Hotel in the 1960s to watch double-matinee movies, for 25 or 50 cents. Theirs is a magnificent theater/auditorium. For a young kid, going to those movies there was like a holiday. In 1968, the year it came out, I saw “The Sound of Music” film, at the Drexel Theater, starring a young Julie Andrews, and I saw many other movies there. Columbus is what made me love architecture the world over. The architecture in Columbus that used to really put me over the top was the Ohio Penitentiary building Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What memories you have! I’m happy you found my page and took a minute to comment.

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