Ask Rufus: A New City Hall and Fire Station


Final week Carol Brown took her fourth grade class from New Hope Elementary College on a strolling tour of downtown Columbus to find the historical past discovered within the buildings there. That they had some questions on Metropolis Corridor’s historical past and the previous bell that’s displayed in entrance of the constructing. The story of the current metropolis corridor opens a window to some vital modifications occurring in Columbus throughout 1903.


By the start of 1902, the dialogue in Columbus over the necessity for a brand new metropolis corridor had modified from “will we construct one?” to “when?”. There have been different infrastructure wants town had and the dialogue centered on the precedence to be given to every. To ensure that town to have free house mail supply, the Submit Workplace Division required Columbus and different cities to have sidewalks and streetlights. By 1902 these two initiatives have been already underway.


In 1902, town council’s dialogue centered on constructing not solely a brand new metropolis corridor, fireplace division and a brand new faculty for black kids, but in addition the necessity to make main enhancements to town’s sewer system. It was determined to concern bonds within the quantity of $50,000 and undertake all of the initiatives. There was additionally a necessity for a brand new submit workplace constructing as for 40 years the submit workplace had been within the Gilmer Resort.



Architect R.H. Hunt of Chattanooga was chosen to design the brand new metropolis corridor, and in July 1902 he submitted plans for that constructing, for a “fireplace corridor” behind it and for a “new Negro faculty home which is to be erected within the northern a part of town at a spot close to the previous fairgrounds.” The previous fairgrounds had been the location of a Accomplice navy hospital that after the warfare ended grew to become the primary Union Academy. The wooden body brick veneered faculty constructing was the brand new Union Academy.


Hunt’s plan that was accepted for metropolis corridor was “for a constructing, the primary story of which is constructed totally of stone and the second of brick.” The stone was Tennessee sandstone and the brick used was metal grey with yellow buff trim St Louis pressed brick. The development contract was awarded to W.T. Christopher on Dec. four, 1902, for $13,345. The “fireplace corridor” was to be of brick and constructed at a value of $three,185.


Building of the brand new metropolis corridor started within the first week of January 1903 with the razing of the previous metropolis corridor, which had been Columbus’ second. When I discovered the unique newspaper account of clearing of town corridor lot, I acquired a shock. A devastating fireplace in September 1854 burned two metropolis blocks downtown, and among the many destroyed buildings was Columbus’ first metropolis corridor. Columbus histories replicate that on the metropolis’s request, architect and contractor William O’Neal ready a draft plan for a brand new metropolis corridor in June of 1856. The brand new construction was on the location of the current metropolis corridor.


That second metropolis corridor apparently was not so new when it grew to become metropolis corridor 1856. The Jan. 6, 1903 newspaper account mentioned: “The previous constructing which has stood on the nook of Essential and Sixth Streets for thus a few years previous, and was used first as a personal residence then as a financial institution and at last as a metropolis corridor, will quickly be however a reminiscence. Its demolition started final week.”


It seems that William O’Neal’s plan in 1856 was not for establishing a brand new constructing however renovating and reworking an current one.


The July 28, 1903 Columbus Business introduced the brand new metropolis corridor had been accomplished with engaging flowerpots on all sides of the primary entrance. Nevertheless, metropolis places of work had not moved in, as their furnishings had not arrived. Different occupants of the constructing had moved in. The submit workplace took up the east half of the primary ground. It moved there from the Gilmer Resort constructing. The general public library and the armory of the Columbus Riflemen have been additionally situated within the new constructing. (The Columbus Riflemen have been a neighborhood navy unit organized in 1837. In October 1916 they have been deployed to the Mexican border in response to Pancho Villa’s assault on Columbus, New Mexico. There they grew to become Co. I of the first Miss Regiment, Mississippi Nationwide Guard.)


The brand new “fireplace corridor,” additionally designed by Hunt, was constructed behind town corridor (the place it’s now as a residential constructing) and was accomplished on Might 1, 1903, about three months earlier than metropolis corridor. There was a tower on it the place the alarm (fireplace) bell was mounted. The bell in entrance of metropolis corridor was town’s alarm bell. Nevertheless, that bell is dated 1907 indicating it was a brand new one changing the previous bell in use when the constructing was accomplished.


The bell was the way in which by which an alarm was sounded asserting there was a hearth within the metropolis. When a hearth was found the bell was rung wildly to sound the alarm. It then was paused in its ringing earlier than tolling the quantity representing town ward by which the hearth was situated. When the hearth was extinguished and hazard previous the bell would toll 12 occasions. The bell would toll so loud that it could be heard throughout the city.


In March 1903, the numbering of streets and giving numbers to homes was underway. This together with the then ongoing set up of streetlights and the development of sidewalks have been a requirement by the submit workplace to have free mail supply to properties within the metropolis. It is fascinating the story of the constructing of Columbus’ metropolis corridor can be the story of main modifications happening within the city. The window into our historical past that may be opened by a fourth grade subject journey is superb.


I used to be helped with this column by Carolyn Kaye, Gary Lancaster and analysis carried out by the late Sam Kaye.



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