Postcards From The Past: Scenes Of Columbus, 100 Years Ago

Before Instagram and affordable cameras, people had to rely on postcards to send photos of Columbus to their friends and family.

The first American postcard was developed in 1873 by the Morgan Envelope Factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Later that same year, Post Master John Creswell introduced the first pre-stamped “Postal Cards”, which were often referred to as “penny postcards”.

Postcards were created for people who wanted a way to send quicker notes, instead of writing a full letter to their friends and loved ones. In 1893, the first postcard printed as a souvenir was actually an advertisement for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, aka the World’s Fair.

Once postcards got a foothold in popular culture thanks to the World’s Fair, sales skyrocketed. By 1908, more than 677 million postcards had been mailed throughout the United States.

Columbus was no exception to the fad. Throughout the 20th century, postcards were created around the city depicting everything from the LeVeque Tower to The Ohio State University. Even public schools and long-gone parks were immortalized.

Today, we’re going to take a look at three postcards sent from the German Village and Franklin Park areas of Columbus, just after the start of the 20th century.

South High School, Postcard dated August 8, 1909


Nowadays, German Village area residents will be able to tell right away that this isn’t the South High School you’re thinking of. The building depicted on the postcard opened in 1900 did serve as the high school, until a newer facility opened in 1924. The Charles S. Barrett Building, located at 345 E. Deshler Ave, served as a middle school until it closed in 2007. Now, it’s home to an apartment complex called The Barrett.

The note on the back of the postcard reads, “What do you think of this for a nice school? Will mail letter in am. -Lou”

Franklin Park At Night, Postcard dated October 21, 1912

In the mid-1800s, the Franklin County Agricultural Society Grounds opened on what we now know as Franklin Park. County fairs operated at the location until the early 1880s and over time, the original 8-acre area was expanded to 100 acres! As the city grew, Franklin County abandoned the land in favor of relocating the fairgrounds to a more remote site. But by 1884, the Ohio General Assembly passed a resolution allowing the City of Columbus to maintain the land as a public park.

This postcard was pretty tricky to line up, mostly because the layout of the park has changed a lot over the years, and many structures are no longer there. This was our best approximation.

Conservatory Drive, Franklin Park, Columbus, Ohio, Postcard dated October 23, 1912


Just ten years after the City of Columbus took over Franklin Park, they commissioned Columbus architect, J.M. Freese, to build a glass palace reminiscent of the one featured at the 1893 World’s Fair, to be the center of attention at Franklin Park. The Franklin Park Conservatory was built in 1895 and even served as a zoo until the mid-1920s.

It’s easy to disregard the history of Columbus when you compare it to older cities around the country. But to be honest, I was surprised at how much things can stay the same around here, even after 100 years.