Great Flood of 1913 in Columbus, Ohio

Last updated
Great Flood of 1913
Engine House 6, Columbus 1913.jpg
Mill Street after the flood, with the tower of Engine House No. 6 in the background
DateMarch 24, 1913 (1913-03-24)–March 27, 1913 (1913-03-27)
Location Franklinton, Near West Side, Downtown
DeathsApproximately 93

The Great Flood of 1913 severely affected Columbus, Ohio. The area most affected was Franklinton, also known as the Bottoms, for its low elevation near the Scioto River. Among many infrastructure projects, a 7.2-mile floodwall was built from 1993 to 2004 to protect most of Franklinton from flooding.

Contents

Columbus historian Ed Lentz described the 1913 flood as "the worst catastrophe in the history of Columbus". [1]

Background

Columbus has recorded flooding events since the area was first settled by colonists around 1797, mainly on the banks of the Scioto River. Lucas Sullivant laid out 220 lots in that year, though a flood in 1798 hit the site, forcing Sullivant to plan his settlement, Franklinton, further inland. A flood in 1898 also severely affected the area, creating a lake from the riverbank to Asylum Hill, location of the Columbus State Hospital. [2]

Among about 10 floods between 1798 and 1898, a series of levees was constructed, mostly 30 feet wide and 15 feet tall. As well, the Griggs Dam was completed in 1905, partially to provide flood control. [3]

1913 flood

Broken earthen levee, March 26, 1913 Levee Break Ohio 14357 .jpg
Broken earthen levee, March 26, 1913
A streetcar found on Greenlawn Avenue, a mile from its tracks Columbus Streetcar Damaged from the Flood.jpg
A streetcar found on Greenlawn Avenue, a mile from its tracks
The West Side Spiritualist Church among damaged houses Columbus, Ohio CML 02.jpg
The West Side Spiritualist Church among damaged houses

From March 24 to 27, 1913, Columbus was hit with its worst flood. The flood killed at least 93 in Columbus, and stranded dozens more in their homes. [2]

The weather forecast printed in newspapers on March 24 warned of a storm heading eastward, though it stated "there is no danger of damaging storms in this vicinity." The city had a cold winter, and the ground had not fully thawed, leading to a higher flood risk. Beginning late on March 24 and spanning 24 hours, about 5 inches of rain fell in Central Ohio. Flooding occurred across Ohio, with many of its major rivers flooding. By 2 a.m. on March 25, it became clear that a major flood was developing. By dawn, local fire and police were rescuing residents, and the water level reached knee-level. At 10 a.m., the earthen State Levee, across from the Ohio Penitentiary, collapsed from high water pressure. This led most of Franklinton to be under 7 to 17 feet of water. Residents fled to buildings' second floors and attics, though many homes were lifted off their foundations. Some people were forced to climb trees to escape the flood waters. By nightfall, the temperature dropped, and some exhausted residents fell into the waters. [3]

Amid the flooding, Columbus Dispatch publisher Robert F. Wolfe saw the water rising from his office. Wolfe, a property owner at Buckeye Lake, knew there were many boats in winter storage there. He chartered a train and sent it with volunteers to collect the boats. The boats helped local residents save flood victims during the crisis. Over the next five days of high waters, the local government, countless volunteers, and five National Guard companies rescued people and worked to save properties. [3]

The flooding shut down the city for five days, and the west side of Columbus for six weeks. An estimated 93 people died. Every bridge in downtown Columbus was destroyed, except an iron rail bridge by the current-day Arena District. [3]

Impacts and subsequent events

The flood led to significant rebuilding and infrastructure improvements over time. New bridges and levees were constructed, and the Columbus Civic Center was built on the east bank of the river downtown. [3] In 1916, voters approved a $3.5 million plan to control flooding, after state and conservancy programs were not approved. The Scioto River was doubled in width, and its channel was deepened. [4]

The flood led much of Franklinton's residents and businesses to relocate to the Hilltop, at a higher elevation, prompting Franklinton's long decline. Another flood took place in 1959, after an earthen levee broke. In the next decade, the levee was reinforced. Congress also approved a flood insurance act, making cities that adopt floodplain maps and restrict development in those areas eligible for insurance; Columbus joined the program in 1971. In 1983, FEMA created a map designating nearly all of Franklinton as a floodplain, and thus Columbus City Council severely restricted new construction in the area. [2]

Floodwall

Floodwall dedication plaque Downtown Columbus - Franklinton Floodwall.jpg
Floodwall dedication plaque

In 1986, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended a 3.25-mile floodwall and levee system, with an initial cost of $30.9 million. Its design funding and construction was approved in 1988, and its first floodgate was tested in 1990. In 1993, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded its first construction contract, reinforcing a levee. The entire project was then estimated at $107 million. On Columbus Day in 1993, politicians celebrated the breaking ground of the floodwall project. [2] In 1998, president Bill Clinton proposed a budget that would reduce funding for the floodwall from $11.3 million to $1.8 million, with $49 million already spent on the project. [5] In 1999, U.S. Representative Deborah Pryce spurred the House Appropriations Committee to keep construction going. President Bush's 2002 budget provided $11 million for the final phase of the wall. In 2002, after two failures, the floodwall's sliding floodgates pass a high-pressure water test. The 7.2-mile floodwall, finally completed, was dedicated in March 2004, at a final cost of $134 million. [2]

Even with the floodwall completed, about 700 of the 2,800 acres behind the floodwall were still deemed at risk of floods due to poor drainage. These properties retained their building restrictions and flood-insurance requirements. [6]

Subsequent events

In 2019, the Southern Theatre in downtown Columbus hosted The Flood, an original opera about the 1913 flood. The opera featured the psychological trauma of four generations of residents affected by the flood. [1] A new development on the Scioto Peninsula in Franklinton aims to install outdoor pylons with a line depicting the high water mark from the 1913 flood. As well, a street running through the development will be named High Water Alley. [7]

Today, there is no remaining evidence of the flood ruins or damage, though its effects can be seen with the redeveloped downtown civic center, riverbank retaining walls, and public works projects to prevent further devastating floods. [8]

Related Research Articles

Engine House No. 12 Historic building in Columbus, Ohio

Engine House No. 12 is a former fire station in the Olde Towne East neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. Today it primarily houses Gemüt Biergarten, a German restaurant, brewery, and biergarten, with its second story used for offices. It is a contributing property to the Columbus Near East Side District, a national historic district established in 1978.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park Park and nature preserve in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park is a public park and nature preserve in Columbus, Ohio. The park is managed by the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and is part of the Scioto Mile network of parks and trails around Downtown Columbus. The park features numerous trails, wetlands, rock climbing, volleyball and bocce courts, and numerous other amenities. At the western edge is the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, considered the first nature center built in close proximity to a downtown area.

Budd Dairy Food Hall Food hall in Columbus, Ohio

Budd Dairy Food Hall is a food hall in the Italian Village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The Cameron Mitchell Restaurants-run hall holds ten foodservice locations, three bars, and indoor, patio, and rooftop seating. It is situated in the historic Budd Dairy Company building, a former milk processing and distribution facility. The space was renovated beginning in 2018, and opened in April 2021.

West Side Spiritualist Church Church in Ohio, United States

The West Side Spiritualist Church is a historic church building in Franklinton, Columbus, Ohio. The Spiritualist church was built in 1912 for the congregation of Harry Boerstler, who moved to the neighborhood in 1900 to bring hope to its working-class people. The congregation lasted until about 1948, and the building later housed the Boerstler Memorial Spiritualist Temple and the Greater Christ Temple Apostolic Church. After years of vacancy, the church building is approved to be demolished for affordable housing, to accompany an upscale mixed-use development nearby, despite opposition from preservationists.

Franklin County Courthouse (1887–1974) Former courthouse of Franklin County, Ohio

The 1887 Franklin County Courthouse was the second permanent courthouse of Franklin County, Ohio. The building, located in the county seat of Columbus, stood from 1887 to 1974. The site was replaced with Dorrian Commons Park, open from 1976 to 2018; the courthouse moved to a new building nearby. The site is now planned to once again hold the county's courthouse.

Elijah Pierce Properties United States historic place

The Elijah Pierce Properties were historic buildings in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. They were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Northmoor Engine House Fire station in Columbus, Ohio

The Northmoor Engine House, or Station 19, is a Columbus Division of Fire station in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. It was listed on the Columbus Register of Historic Properties in 2003. It was named for Jerry Kuhn in 2002; Kuhn was a lieutenant for Station 19 and died in the line of duty in 1972.

77 North Front Street City office building in Columbus, Ohio

77 North Front Street is a municipal office building of Columbus, Ohio, in the city's downtown Civic Center. The building, originally built as the Central Police Station in 1930, operated in that function until 1991. After about two decades of vacancy, the structure was renovated for city agency use in 2011.

CBUS Bus line in Columbus, Ohio

The CBUS was a free downtown circulator bus in Columbus, Ohio. The service was operated by the Central Ohio Transit Authority. The CBUS service primarily traveled along High Street between the Brewery District and the Short North. The service had uniquely-branded 30-foot buses stopping at round "CBUS" signs. The service operated every 10–15 minutes, seven days per week. The service began operation on May 5, 2014.

2 E Main / N High Bus line in Columbus, Ohio

The 2 E Main / N High is a Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus service in Columbus, Ohio. The line operates on High Street, the city's main north-south thoroughfare.

Columbus Bus Station Intercity bus station in Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus Bus Station is an intercity bus station in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. The station, managed by Greyhound Lines, also serves Barons Bus Lines, Miller Transportation, GoBus, and other carriers. The current building was constructed in 1969. Since 1979, with the demolition of Union Station and a short-lived replacement, the Greyhound station has been the only intercity transit center in the city.

Columbus City Hall (1872–1921) Former city hall for Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Columbus City Hall was the city hall for Columbus, Ohio, located on Capitol Square in the city's downtown. The building served the mayor and city council from its construction in 1872 until its demolition in 1921. The building was the founding site for the United Mine Workers of America in 1890. In 1928, the site became home to the Ohio Theatre, and the current Columbus City Hall opened nearby.

Columbus Board of Trade Building Former building in Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus Board of Trade Building was a historic building on Capitol Square in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. The building was built in 1889 for the present-day Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and was designed by Elah Terrell and Joseph W. Yost. It became vacant in 1964 and was demolished five years later. The Rhodes State Office Tower sits on the site today.

Columbus Developmental Center School for developmental disabilities in Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus Developmental Center (CDC) is a state-supported residential school for people with developmental disabilities, located in the Hilltop neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The school, founded in 1857, was the third of these programs developed by a U.S. state, after Massachusetts in 1848 and New York in 1851.

Charles Frederick Myers house Historic house in Columbus, Ohio

The Charles Frederick Myers house is a historic private residence in the Franklin Park neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. It was added to the Columbus Near East Side District in 1978, and the Bryden Road District in 1990.

<i>Columbus Neighborhoods</i> Documentary series about Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Neighborhoods is a documentary television series produced by WOSU Public Media, a part of PBS. The series premiered in 2010 as a set of one-hour shows about historic neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio.

Engine House No. 7 (Columbus, Ohio) Former fire station in Columbus, Ohio

Engine House No. 7 is a former Columbus Fire Department station in the Weinland Park neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. It was built in 1894 and was listed on the Columbus Register of Historic Properties in 1994. Today the building houses a local branch of the Communications Workers of America, Local 4501.

Bricker Federal Building

The John W. Bricker Federal Building is a federal office building in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. The structure was designed in the Brutalist architecture style and was built in 1977 to house federal offices. It has seven stories, and is part of a 454,000 sq ft (42,200 m2) facility, including an eight-story parking garage.

Engine House No. 10 (Columbus, Ohio) Former fire station in Columbus, Ohio

Engine House No. 10 is a Columbus Division of Fire station in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The original firehouse was built in 1897, while its neighboring replacement, also known as Station 10, was completed in 2008.

Lazarus House Historic house in Columbus, Ohio

The Lazarus House is a historic house in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. It was built in 1886 for Frederick Lazarus Sr., president of the F&R Lazarus & Company, and was designed in the French Second Empire style. It has undergone numerous renovations since its construction, including for conversion into office space, into apartments, and back to predominantly single-family occupancy. The house is a contributing property of the East Town Street Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places and Columbus Register of Historic Properties.

References

  1. 1 2 "Review | 'The Flood': Opera's simultaneous action and multiple time periods dampens dramatic flow".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 https://infoweb-newsbank-com.webproxy3.columbuslibrary.org/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&t=favorite%3ACOLUMBUS%21Columbus%20Dispatch%20Historical%20and%20Current&sort=_rank_%3AD&fld-base-0=alltext&maxresults=20&val-base-0=franklinton%20flood%20wall&docref=news/10DADD87AA57C478
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "1913 flood changed Columbus".
  4. "Highlights of Columbus History". The Columbus Dispatch. October 14, 1962. pp. 155–156. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  5. https://infoweb-newsbank-com.webproxy3.columbuslibrary.org/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&t=favorite%3ACOLUMBUS%21Columbus%20Dispatch%20Historical%20and%20Current&sort=_rank_%3AD&fld-base-0=alltext&maxresults=20&val-base-0=franklinton%20flood%20wall&docref=news/10DE41D30CFCD828
  6. https://infoweb-newsbank-com.webproxy3.columbuslibrary.org/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&t=favorite%3ACOLUMBUS%21Columbus%20Dispatch%20Historical%20and%20Current&sort=_rank_%3AD&fld-base-0=alltext&maxresults=20&val-base-0=franklinton%20flood%20wall&docref=news/10DADD822C732680
  7. "Pedestrian-Friendly Street Approved for Scioto Peninsula". 24 June 2020.
  8. "City Quotient: The Flood That Changed the City".