Columbus is the capital and the largest city of the American state of Ohio. Named for explorer Christopher Columbus, the city was founded in 1812 at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, and assumed the functions of state capital in 1816. The city has a diverse economy based on education, insurance, healthcare, and technology. Acknowledged by Money Magazine as the 8th best large city in the U.S. to inhabit, it is also recognized as an emerging global city. Residents of Columbus are usually referred to as Columbusites.
In 2006 Columbus was ranked as the United States 15th largest city, with 733,203 residents, and is the country's 32nd largest metropolitan area. Located near the geographic center of the state, Columbus is the county seat of Franklin County, although parts of the city also extend into Delaware and Fairfield counties.
The name Columbus is often used to refer to the Columbus Metropolitan Area, which includes many other municipalities. According to the US Census, the metropolitan area has a population of 1,725,570, while the Combined Statistical Area (which also includes Marion and Chillicothe) has 1,953,575 people.
Evidence of ancient mound-building societies abounds in the region near the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. Mound Street, located in downtown Columbus, was so named because of its proximity to a large Native American burial mound. Numerous other earthworks were found throughout the area, including a surviving edifice on McKinley Avenue. Those ancient civilizations had long since faded into history when European explorers began moving into the region south of Lake Erie. Rather than an empty frontier, however, they encountered people of the Miami, Delaware, Wyandot, Shawnee, and Mingo nations. These tribes resisted expansion by the fledgling United States, resulting in years of bitter conflict. A decisive battle at Fallen Timbers resulted in the Treaty of Greenville, which finally opened the way for new settlements. By 1797, a young surveyor from Virginia named Lucas Sullivant had founded a permanent settlement on the west bank of the forks of the Scioto River. An admirer of Benjamin Franklin, Sullivant chose to name his new frontier village "Franklinton." Although the location was desirable in its proximity to navigable rivers, Sullivant was initially foiled when in 1798, a large flood wiped out the newly formed settlement. He persevered, and the village was rebuilt.
After achieving statehood in 1803, political infighting among Ohio's more prominent leaders resulted in the state capital moving from Chillicothe to Zanesville and back again. The state legislature eventually decided that a new capital city, located in the center of the state, was a necessary compromise. Several of Ohio's small towns and villages petitioned the legislature for the honor of becoming the state capital, but ultimately a coalition of land speculators, with Sullivant's support, made the most attractive offer to the Ohio General Assembly. Named in honor of Christopher Columbus, the capital city was founded on February 14, 1812, on the "High Banks opposite Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto known as Wolf's Ridge." At the time, this area was a dense forestland, used only as a hunting ground.
The Burough of Columbus [sic] was officially established on February 10, 1816. Nine people were elected to fill the various positions of Mayor, Treasurer, and others. Although the recent War of 1812 had brought prosperity to the area, the subsequent recession and conflicting claims to the land threatened the success of the new town. Early conditions were abysmal, with frequent bouts of fevers and an outbreak of Cholera in 1833.
The National Road reached Columbus from Baltimore in 1831, which complemented the city's new link to the Ohio and Erie Canal and facilitated a population boom. A wave of immigrants from Europe resulted in the establishment of two ethnic enclaves on the outskirts of the city. A significant Irish population settled in the north along Naghten Street (presently Nationwide Boulevard), while the Germans took advantage of the cheap land to the south, creating a community that came to be known as Das Alte Südende (The Old South End). Columbus' German population is responsible for constructing numerous breweries, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Capital University, and for instituting the first kindergarten in the United States.
With a population of 3500, Columbus was officially chartered as a city on March 3, 1834. The legislature carried out a special act on that day, which granted legislative authority to the city council and judicial authority to the mayor. Elections were held in April of that year, with voters choosing one John Brooks as the first mayor.
In 1850 the Columbus and Xenia Railroad became the first railroad to enter the city, followed by the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad in 1851. The two railroads built a joint Union Station on the east side of High Street just north of Naughten (then called North Public Lane). Rail traffic into Columbus increased--by 1875 Columbus was served by eight railroads, and a new, more elaborate station was built.
On January 7, 1857, the Ohio Statehouse finally opened to the public after eighteen years of construction. During the Civil War, Columbus was the home of Camp Chase, a major base for the Union Army that housed 26,000 troops and held up to 9,000 Confederate prisoners of war. Over 2,000 Confederate soldiers remain buried at the site, making it one of the largest Confederate cemeteries in the North. By virtue of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College was founded in 1870 on the former estate of William and Hannah Neil.
By the end of the 19th century, Columbus saw the rise of several major manufacturing businesses. The city became known as the "Buggy Capital of the World," thanks to the presence of some two dozen buggy factories, notably the Columbus Buggy Company, which was founded in 1875 by C.D. Firestone. The Columbus Consolidated Brewing Company also rose to prominence during this time, and it may have achieved even greater success were it not for the influence of the Anti-Saloon League, based in neighboring Westerville. In the steel industry, a forward-thinking man named Samuel P. Bush presided over the Buckeye Steel Castings Company. Columbus was also a popular location for the organization of labor. In 1886, Samuel Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor in Druid's Hall on S. Fourth Street, and in 1890 the United Mine Workers of America was founded at old City Hall
Columbus earned its nickname "The Arch City" because of the dozens of metal (formerly wooden) arches that spanned High Street at the turn of the twentieth century. The arches illuminated the thoroughfare and eventually became the means by which electric power was provided to the new streetcars. The arches were torn down and replaced with cluster lights in 1914, but were reconstructed in the Short North district in 2002 for their unique historical interest..
On March 25, 1913, a catastrophic flood devastated the neighborhood of Franklinton, leaving over ninety people dead and thousands of West Side residents homeless. To prevent future flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended widening the Scioto River through downtown, constructing new bridges, and building a retaining wall along its banks. With the strength of the post-WWI economy, a construction boom occurred in the 1920s, resulting in a new Civic Center, the Ohio Theatre, the American Insurance Union Citadel, and, to the north, a massive new Ohio Stadium. Although the American Professional Football Association was founded in Canton in 1920, its head offices moved to Columbus in 1921 and remained in the city until 1941. In 1922, the association's name was changed to the National Football League. 
The effects of the Great Depression were somewhat less severe in Columbus, as the city's diversified economy helped it fare marginally better than its Rust Belt neighbors. World War II brought a tremendous number of new jobs to the city, and with it another population surge. This time, the majority of new arrivals were migrants from the "extraordinarily depressed rural areas" of Appalachia, who would soon account for more than a third of Columbus' rising population. In 1948, the Town and Country Shopping Center opened in suburban Whitehall, and it is now regarded as one of the first modern shopping centers in the United States. Along with the construction of the interstate highway, it signaled the arrival of rapid suburban development in central Ohio. In order to protect the city's tax base from this suburbanization, Columbus adopted a policy of linking sewer and water hookups to annexation to the city. By the early 1990s, Columbus had grown to become Ohio's largest city in both land area and in population.
Efforts to revitalize Downtown Columbus have met with mixed results in recent decades. In the 1970s old landmarks such as Union Station and the Neil House Hotel were razed to construct high-rise offices and retail space such as the Huntington Center. Newer suburban developments at Tuttle Crossing, Easton, and Polaris have inhibited much of the anticipated downtown growth. Still, with the addition of the Arena District as well as hundreds of downtown residential units, significant revitalization efforts are likely to continue in the downtown area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 550.5 km² (212.6 mi²). 544.6 km² (210.3 mi²) of it is land and 5.9 km² (2.3 mi²) of it (1.07%) is water. Unlike many other major US cities in the Midwest, Columbus continues to expand its reach by way of extensions and annexations, making it one of the fastest growing large cities in the nation, in terms of both geography and population, and probably the fastest in the Midwest. Unlike Cleveland and Cincinnati, the central cities in Ohio's two largest metropolitan areas, Columbus is ringed by relatively few suburbs; since the 1950s it has made annexation a condition for providing water and sewer service, to which it holds regional rights throughout a large portion of Central Ohio. This policy is credited with preserving Columbus' tax base in the face of the U.S.'s suburbanization and has contributed to its continued economic expansion, much like other cities pursuing similar policies such as San Antonio, Texas, of which is similarly lacking in surrounding incorporated suburbs.
The confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers occurs just west of downtown Columbus. Several smaller tributaries course through the Columbus metro area, including Alum Creek, Big Walnut Creek, and Darby Creek. Columbus is considered to have relatively flat topography thanks to a large glacier that covered most of Ohio during the Wisconsin Ice Age. However, there are sizable differences in elevation through the area, with the high point of Franklin County being 1130ft (345m) above Sea level near New Albany, and the low point being 680ft (207m) where the Scioto River leaves the county near Lockbourne. Numerous ravine areas near the rivers and creeks also help give some variety to the landscape. Deciduous trees are common, including maple, oak, hickory, walnut, poplar, cottonwood, and of course, buckeye.
Columbus also has a number of distinctive neighborhoods within the metro area. The Short North, situated just north of downtown, is rich with art galleries, dining, pubs, and specialty shops. A number of large, ornate Victorian homes are located nearby, and together they comprise Victorian Village. To the south, German Village is known for its quaint 19th century brick cottages, and it holds the distinction as the largest privately funded historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. These three neighborhoods have all undergone gentrification on a large scale. Franklinton, sometimes known as "the Bottoms", is the neighborhood immediately west of downtown. It gets its colorful nickname due to the fact that much of the land lies below the level of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, and a floodwall is required to contain the rivers and protect the area from devastating floods. Just to the west of Franklinton is a group of smaller neighborhoods commonly referred to as "The Hilltop."
There is also the Heritage Districts which include the Driving Park, Livingston Park and Old Oaks areas on the near east side of the city which is home to a part of the cities large black population.
The University area is populated by a high concentration of students during the school year (approximately 50,000) and features many old homes which have been converted to apartments for student use. The stretch of High Street that runs through the campus area caters to the student body with its abundance of bars, sandwich shops, music stores, and bookstores. Located between OSU and Worthington is Clintonville, where a mix of middle class homes can be found alongside beautiful old stone and brick-faced houses nestled among rolling hills. Further west of downtown, San Margherita is a community formed by Italian immigrants who arrived at the turn of the 20th century.
The city's street plan originates downtown and extends into the old-growth neighborhoods, following a grid pattern with the intersection of High Street (running north-south) and Broad Street (running east-west) at its center. North-South streets run twelve degrees west of due North, parallel to High Street; the Avenues (vis. Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, etc.) run east-west, perpendicular to High and parallel to Broad. The address system begins its numbering at the intersection of Broad and High, with numbers increasing in magnitude with distance from Broad or High. For example, 251 W 5th Ave. is approximately two and a half city-blocks west of High Street on Fifth Avenue, which intersects High Street roughly five city-blocks north of the intersection of Broad and High. As a counter example, 251 E 5th Ave. is approximately two and a half city-blocks east of High, five city-blocks north of the intersection of Broad and High. Buildings along north-south streets are numbered in a similar manner: the building number indicates the approximate distance from Broad Street in city-blocks, the prefixes ‘N’ and ‘S’ indicate whether that distance is to measured to the north or south of Broad Street and the street number itself indicates how far the street is from the center of the city at the intersection of Broad and High.
This numbering system breaks down outside the original, old-growth areas—particularly in the suburbs and peripheral settlements annexed during the 20th century. Some streets and avenues break the mold. For example, while all of the numbered avenues run east-west, perpendicular to High Street, many named, non-numbered avenues run north-south, parallel to High. The same is true of many named streets: while the numbered streets in the city run north-south, perpendicular to Broad Street, many named, non-numbered streets run east-west, parallel to High Street.
A short list of other major, local roads in Columbus could include Main Street, Morse Road, Dublin-Granville Road (SR-161), Cleveland Avenue/Westerville Road (SR-3), Olentangy River Road, Riverside Drive, Sunbury Road, Fifth Avenue and Livingston Avenue.
Columbus is bisected by two major Interstate Highways, Interstate 70 running east-west, and Interstate 71 running north to roughly southwest. The two Interstates combine downtown for about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in an area locally known as "The Split", which is a major traffic congestion point within Columbus, especially during rush hour. U.S. Highway 40, aka National Road, runs east-west through Columbus, comprising Main Street to the east of downtown and Broad Street to the west. It is also widely recognized as the nation's first highway. U.S. Highway 23 runs roughly north-south, while U.S. Highway 33 runs northwest-to-southeast. The Interstate 270 Outerbelt encircles the vast majority of the city, while the newly redesigned Innerbelt consists of the Interstate 670 spur on the north side (which continues to the east past the Airport and to the west where it merges with I-70), State Route 315 on the west side, the I-70/71 split on the south side, and I-71 on the east. Due to its central location within Ohio and abundance of outbound roadways, nearly all of the state's destinations are within a 2-hour drive of Columbus.
Columbus used to have a major train station downtown called Union Station, most notably as a stop along Amtrak's National Limited train service until 1977. The station itself was razed in 1979, and the Greater Columbus Convention Center now stands in its place. The station was also a stop along the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad. Columbus is now the second largest metropolitan area in the U.S. (after Phoenix) without passenger rail service, however studies are underway towards reintroducing passenger rail service to Columbus via the Ohio Hub project.
Columbus maintains a widespread municipal bus service called the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). The City is served by Port Columbus International Airport, Rickenbacker International Airport, Don Scott Airport (run by The Ohio State University), and Bolton Field Airport.
A modern streetcar system has been proposed for the downtown and surrounding areas. The most favored route would run along High Street, from the Brewery District to the Short North. It is not clear where funding for such a system would come from, and no firm construction plans have been promulgated.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 711,470 people, 301,534 households, and 165,240 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,306.4/km² (3,383.6/mi²). There were 327,175 housing units at an average density of 600.8/km² (1,556.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 67.93% White, 24.47% Black or African American, 0.29% Native American, 3.44% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.17% from other races, and 2.65% from two or more races. 2.46% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 301,534 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.1% were married couples living together, 14.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.2% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.01.
The age distribution is 24.2% under the age of 18, 14.0% from 18 to 24, 35.1% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 8.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,897, and the median income for a family was $47,391. Males had a median income of $35,138 versus $28,705 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,450. About 10.8% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.
The Columbus metropolitan area has experienced several waves of immigration in the 20th century, including groups from Vietnam, Russia, Somalia, and ongoing immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Many other countries of origin are represented as well, with much of this related to the international draw of The Ohio State University. As is the case in much of America, there is less assimilation going on than compartmentalization, with large monoethnic neighborhoods developing. This influx is putting pressure on all of the social services institutions, notably the public schools and the public health system.
Due to its demographics, which include a mix of races and a wide range of incomes, as well as urban, suburban, and nearby rural areas, Columbus has been considered to be a "typical" American city, and has been used as a test market for new products by retail and restaurant chains. However, newer studies suggest that Columbus may no longer accurately mirror the U.S. population as a whole.
Columbus has a generally strong and diverse economy, ranking in the top 10 overall in the United States, and the best in Ohio, according to Policom Corp.  As Columbus is the state capital, there is a large government presence in the city. Including city, county, state, and federal employers, government jobs provide the largest single source of employment within Columbus.
With approximately 100,000 college students in the Metropolitan Area, there are a large number of people employed within higher education institutions. Large organizations include The Ohio State University, Franklin University and Columbus State Community College, as well as numerous other smaller colleges and schools.
Columbus is home to no fewer than five insurance companies. Nationwide Insurance makes its home downtown in a large, multi-building complex that dominates the northern end of the downtown area. Other companies based in the city include Motorists Insurance, Grange Insurance, Safe Auto Insurance, and State Auto Insurance. Huntington Bancshares Inc. has its headquarters in the downtown area. Bank One was headquartered in Columbus until 1998, and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which acquired Bank One in 2004, continues to maintain a major presence in Columbus, with a large mortgage servicing unit in the city. Serving the business-only niche, Commerce National Bank is headquartered in Columbus.
Chemical Abstracts Service is located just north of the OSU campus. The Battelle Memorial Institute, a major research and development facility, is located just to the south of said campus. These two institutions make the city one of the world's leading centers for scientific information distribution. McGraw-Hill has large offices within Columbus as well.
Many technology companies either call Columbus home or have significant operations in the area. The Internet Service Provider CompuServe still has its roots in Columbus, although it has been owned by AOL since 1998. Sterling Commerce, a B2B software company, has its headquarters on the Northwest side. Mettler Toledo, a manufacturer of precision scales and scientific equipment is based in the area known as Polaris. Microsoft also has an office at Polaris. There is a strong push toward gaining more research and technology companies in the city. The multi-jurisdictional 315 Research + Technology Corridor was set up in 2006 to promote the area nationally and internationally, in hopes of achieving something similar to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
Limited Brands (formerly known as The Limited, Inc.) is located on the east side of the city and is the parent company of the retail stores The Limited, Express, Victoria's Secret, and Bath & Body Works, among others. Limited Too is also based in the area. The Abercrombie Brands are also located in Columbus in the suburb of New Albany. Abercrombie Brands is parent company of Hollister Co. Abercrombie and Fitch Abercrombie Kids and Ruehl 925. Retail Ventures is headquartered in the capital city. They operate stores under the DSW, Filene's Basement, and Value City banners.
Four fast food chains are based in Columbus: Charley's Grilled Subs, Steak Escape, Wendy's and White Castle. Wendy's operated their first store downtown as both a museum and a restaurant until March 2007 when the establishment was closed due to low revenue. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Bob Evans Restaurants, Max & Erma's, Damon's Grill, and Donatos Pizza are also based in the city.
Worthington Industries, a large steel-processing company, is primarily located on the north side near Worthington. Historically, Port Columbus International Airport was once home to a North American Aviation factory (later North American/Rockwell). Aircraft built in Columbus include the North American F-86 Sabre, A-5 Vigilante, OV-10 Bronco, T-2 Buckeye (named after the state tree, and Ohio State University's mascot), and components for the B-1 bomber, as well as numerous missiles and guidance systems. Budweiser has a major brewery located on the north side, while Hexion Specialty Chemicals (formerly part of Borden, Inc.) is located downtown. The Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories, makers of Ensure nutritional drink and Similac infant formula, is headquartered in Columbus, with over 7,000 employees. UPS has a large distribution center on the west side of the city.
Columbus is also home to Skybus Airlines. The start-up company began flying in May of 2007. Skybus was modeled after the European carrier Ryanair and many former Ryanair employees now work for Skybus. Skybus is able to offer extremely cheap fairs by charging extra for amenities such as in-flight snacks and beverages, checked baggage, pillows, blankets, priority boarding, and other luxuries that typical airlines offer for free. Skybus also utilizes secondary airports for many of its destinations to lower costs. Skybus is currently flying from Columbus to 11 destinations in the US. Skybus hopes to begin international flights to Cancun, Mexico and Nassau, Bahamas by October of 2007.
Columbus is the home of two public colleges: The Ohio State University, the largest college campus in the United States and Columbus State Community College. Private institutions located in Columbus include the Columbus College of Art and Design, DeVry University,Ohio Institute of Health Careers, and Franklin University, as well as the religious schools Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Ohio Dominican University, Pontifical College Josephinum, and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Two major suburban schools also have an influence on Columbus' educational landscape: Bexley's Capital University and Westerville's Otterbein College.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library has been serving residents of Central Ohio since 1873. With a collection of 3 million items, the system has 22 locations throughout the area. This library is one of the most-used library systems in the country and is consistently among the top-ranked large city libraries according to "Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings"
Columbus is home to several notable buildings, including the Greek-Revival State Capitol, the art-deco Ohio Judicial Center and the Peter Eisenman-designed Wexner Center and Greater Columbus Convention Center.