Ravines, Their History Add to Columbus

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I really like the Ravines of Columbus.

To people who may not be sure about what exactly constitutes a ravine and to those who wonder what ravines have to do with Columbus, let me take a moment to explain.

Columbus and central Ohio is one of those places – among many in America – that is often accused of having an “image problem.” The problem of course is that we appear to have no image. We are part of the great heart of Middle America.

Cincinnati – on the sweeping expanse of the mighty Ohio River – was -and to many people still is – the “Queen City of the West.” Cleveland – on “America’s North Shore” is the “Forest City on the Lake.”

Columbus on the other hand seems to nothing more than part of a great flatland that begins somewhere in eastern Ohio and ends somewhere around Pike’s Peak.

And of course nothing could be less than the truth.

First and foremost, this is not flat country. The land actually has a bit of a nice roll to it. But even if this were not true, there are still the ravines.

The ravines are part of what makes Columbus a special place.

On a good day one can walk in Columbus in several different ravines. They are the traces that were left behind – carved into the hills – after the streams roared down the hillsides toward the nearby rivers.

There are a lot of ravines immediately adjacent to downtown Columbus – Iuka Ravine, Glen Echo Ravine, Walhalla Ravine, Overbrook Ravine and so on.

And there are some that were once there but are now long gone. The Iuka Ravine once crossed High Street and spilled through the heart of what is now the Ohio State Campus. Further south another ravine crossed High Street on its way to the river. And in downtown Columbus, a fast moving stream crossed High Street and gave Spring Street its name.

As late as the 1830′s, people were crossing Spring Street on a wood bridge. And there was yet another large ravine south of the downtown where the canyon of Interstate 70 runs today.

Over the years, the uses to which ravines have been put have changed as well. Over the first century of Columbus’ history, factories were located along the ravines near the downtown. The ravine south of downtown was particularly known as the home of several tanneries. And if you don’t know how leather was tanned in those days and the mess it made – believe me, you don’t want to know.

To the north, a sewer pipe company made its home in and around the Glen Echo Ravine and made the place much wider and deeper as it removed the local clay.

But even as some ravines were being despoiled, others were being transformed. In the years after the Civil War, the Neil family laid out a fashionable residential suburb along the ravine east of the campus of the newly founded Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College.

Some of the streets were named after Civil War battles – battles in places called Iuka and Indianola. It became a very fashionable place to live – and started a trend.

Over the course of the last century most of the ravines in Columbus that have not been swallowed up by the downtown have been transformed into places of rare beauty and residential respectability. Some now have pleasant parks within their confines.

With or without the company of newcomers who think Columbus is nothing but cornfields and concrete – any of them is well worth a visit.

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