- 139 West Main Street
- Renovation: Schooley Caldwell Architects, Columbus, 1976
Despite its current title, there is no hiding this building’s true character. The four octagonal towers, small lancet windows, and formidable brick wall eloquently testify to its original use: the storage of firearms for the state militia. Built with convict labor on the site of the state’s first penitentiary, it is one of Ohio’s oldest arsenals. The Italianate style was popular in Ohio at the time of the arsenal’s construction, and reminds one of the somewhat earlier Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C. by James Renwick. You can see elements of this style in the tall, round-arched windows and arched corbel table under the roof eaves. Before entering the building, look for the cast bronze shield and eagle at the northeast corner of the perimeter wall. They are from the U.S. battleship Ohio, which was decommissioned in 1900. Used for military purposes into the 1970s, the arsenal is now a model of how an older building may be adapted for new purposes. The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department offers a variety of programs in this successfully re-used center. Within, the arsenal’s original open storage spaces have become galleries and work areas; its exposed iron columns, wood beams, and joists provide a delightful setting for the production and presentation of artwork in many different media.