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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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First Baptist Church - Harry Weese, Architect
First Baptist Church, 3300 Fairlawn Drive, Columbus Architect: Harry Weese, Chicago. Courtesy Visitors Center, Columbus, IN

Columbus: The Athens of the West

This small city of 37,000 has been lauded by architects and urban planners as among the top six most beautiful cities in the United States. Civic, community and business leaders believed that a "good city" that provides a desirable quality of life "must also look good."

Although the community has buildings from the 1860s, it is the city's 20th century architecture that has attracted attention. The first modern building of note is the 1942 construction of the First Christian Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Among other distinguished structures that followed are a school designed by Richard Meier, a library designed by I.M. Pei, a bank and church designed by Eero Saarinen, a golf course designed by Robert Trend Jones with a Harry Weese club house, a fire station designed by Robert Venturi, a mall designed by Cesar Pelli, and a hospital designed by Robert A.M. Stern.

Articles describing the city's architecture have appeared in National Geographic, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, Fortune, the New York Times, and others. Many of the buildings resulted from the philanthropy of Columbus-based Cummins Engine Company. The company's foundation offered to pay the architect fees for any new schools designed by an architect selected from a list selected by the foundation. The successful program was expanded to include other public buildings.

Woven into the fabric of city's architecture is a variety of art, which include sculptures by Henry Moore, Jean Tinguely, J. Seward Johnson and Richard Bauer. The visitor center, which was developed during the 1960s when citizens noticed that people were visiting Columbus to see its eminent architecture, displays a Dale Chihuly work, containing 900 pieces of hand-blown glass. The city is further enhanced and enriched by its seven landscaped gardens and parks and wide range of festivals, special events, and performing arts programs.

Documentation comprises a report, including a history of the visitors center, magazine articles, a video, and the 2000-2001 Columbus Audit Report by the Economic Development Board.

Originally submitted by: David M. McIntosh, Representative (2nd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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