Springfield City

Clark County, Ohio

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Springfield City Hall is located at 76 East High Street, Springfield, OH 45502.
Phone: 937‑324‑7300.

Home in the East High Street Historic District

Springfield History and Architecture [†]

Springfield was founded in 1801 when James Demint platted 95 lots on his land for a new town, named for the numerous springs in the area. Demint had arrived in the area in 1799, purchasing a mile-square tract centered on Lagonda Creek (later and currently called Buck Creek). Springfield was designated the county seat when Clark County was formed in 1818.


Growth was achieved as Springfield emerged as a commercial center for the surrounding agricultural lands and then following designation as the new county seat. The population blossomed to 1,868 residents in 1820. Springfield received village status in 1827. After a loss in population following the 1830 census, the village regained residents in the 1840 census, surpassing its 1820 figures at 2,062. The rise in population by 1840 may be attributed to the arrival of the National Road.

The National Road arrived in Springfield in 1838, bringing a westward migration of people, commerce, and culture to the area. The National Road was the United States' first federally funded highway. It began in Cumberland, Maryland and continued west, crossing the entire state of Ohio, before reaching Vandalia, Illinois. Springfield was the largest community along the National Road in western Ohio. Several businesses, such as hotels, taverns, stores, blacksmiths, and wagon makers, were established to take advantage of the passing traffic, creating Springfield's first economic boom.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the first iron foundry in the city was begun, by James Leffel, the same year that the National Road was completed through Springfield. Leffel's invention of a turbine that increased water power from Buck Creek heralded the entrepreneurial and inventive spirit that was to define Springfield in the coming decades. As a result, several factories located along the banks of Buck Creek. Leffel's company manufactured turbines into the 1940s, selling them around the world.

Springfield achieved city status in 1850 with a population of 5,100, a significant increase from 1840. The National Road remained critically important to the town's development through the decade of the 1840s but was soon eclipsed by the advent of rail transportation. Railroad lines reached Springfield in the late 1840s, with two lines operating there by 1851. The 1850s proved to be an important decade for the new city.

Springfield's early 19th century industries were typical of those found in most communities of the era. Grist mills, saw mills, distilleries, and tanneries were among the early industries. The first sizeable endeavor outside of these more typical enterprises was a cotton mill established on Mill Run near Buck Creek in 1814. Springfield was surrounded by rich agricultural lands, and 1850 brought a new industry to the city with the establishment of the Warder&Brokaw Company. The company produced reapers, which made the cutting of wheat and other small grains faster. The production of agricultural implements soon came to dominate the city's industrial concerns after the success of the Warder & Brokaw Company.

The 1850s saw the establishment of other significant agriculture-related industries. P.P. Mast was an implement manufacturer that had its start during that decade. The Whitely&Fassler Company began production of a mechanized mower in 1856. This company evolved into the Champion Machine Company and was so prosperous that a network of factories spread throughout the city to produce the machine and subsidiary parts. At its peak in the early 1880s, Champion was the second largest factory complex in the world, with up to 12,000 machines manufactured in a year. A bank failure in 1887 brought the company to a sudden end. Champion Machine was an important company in Springfield for 32 years, earning the city world renown and the nickname of "Champion City." By 1860 the manufacture of agricultural implements commanded the industrial arena of Springfield, and the city continued to grow as demand for its products exploded during the Civil War years. The population nearly doubled in size from 7,000 in 1860 to 12,652 in 1870. The 1880s were the peak decade for agricultural implement manufacturing, accounting for more than three-quarters of all industrial production in the city, and Springfield was the leading producer of such products in the United States at that time. Population numbers grew accordingly, reaching 31,895 in 1890, up from 20,730 in 1880. Springfield continued to be an important industrial city in Ohio,

but the types of products being manufactured began to shift away from agricultural equipment after 1900. The International Harvester Company purchased the Warder, Bushnell,&Glessner Company, the last independent subsidiary of the Champion Machine Company, in 1902. Upon acquisition, International Harvester switched production to motor trucks.

Springfield's formerly agriculture‑'related industrial base was diversified with companies like Mast, Crowell&Kirkpatrick, a publishing company begun in 1880. The company published two nationally popular magazines, Farm and Fireside and The Ladies Home Companion as well as books on a multitude of subjects. The company later changed its name to Crowell Collier and expanded its offering of popular periodicals, including Collier's Weekly. By 1924, the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company was the largest magazine publisher in the world. (Springfield, Ohio: In the Heart of the Mad River Valley) It remained an important business and employer in the city until 1956. Other early 20th century manufacturing concerns included production of caskets, piano plates, motors, incubators, electric signs, and tires. Most of them had nationwide distribution, such as the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company which began production of pneumatic automobile tires in 1900. Springfield's industrial diversity and strength continued to be reflected in its population growth in the early 20th century. Population figures had the largest jump in a single decade from 46,921 in 1910 to 60,840 in 1920. The 1910s and 1920s were just as important to Springfield's industrial and overall growth as the earlier farm implements era had been.

The physical size of Springfield nearly doubled in the early years of the 20th century, growing from six square miles in 1894 to about 11 square miles by 1922. After that, the city's corporate limits remained mostly unchanged from the early 1920s until after WWII. The city was dense and characterized as "bulging at the seams" in a 1942 Springfield News article. Manufacturing was still healthy in the early 1960s, with nearly 230 firms operating in the city. Having had a presence in Springfield for many decades, International Harvester was the largest company and employer. However, the loss of Crowell-Collier's 2,000 jobs in 1956 signaled a gradual decline in Springfield's manufacturing base. Like many other industrial cities in the late 20th century, Springfield struggled with the challenge of keeping businesses in the city and maintaining a healthy downtown despite suburban sprawl.

Springfield naturally grew outward from its original 1801 plat centered on Fountain (Market), Limestone, Spring, Main, Columbia, and North streets. Houses and businesses that served the community, as well as National Road travelers, packed the town. As Springfield blossomed in the 1840s from its fortuitous location on the pike, more areas farther from the town center were platted for housing.

Housing for Springfield's working class was concentrated near the factories during the second half of the 19th century, but the wealthy business and factory owners could choose to live farther from their workplace. Located four blocks from the business core, the South Fountain Avenue area emerged as fashionable quarters for Springfield's prosperous merchants and business leaders beginning in the mid 1800s. Platted by the 1850s, South Fountain would have been considered a quieter location to live away from the bustle of commerce and industry further north.

To the east, the Foos brothers platted 42 lots at East High and York streets, quite a distance from the central city. Higher in elevation, above the growing industrial din and urban ills of the crowded city, this area attracted the burgeoning ranks of newly wealthy industrialists and businessmen who built mansions on large estate-like lots. The north side of the city would come to parallel the development of the east and south sides with the added influence of Wittenberg University, founded in 1842. However, the west side of Springfield never attracted the large number of affluent citizens as had areas to the east, south and north.

The first horse-drawn streetcar lines were laid in 1871, and a more developed system of lines was in place by 1884. Neighborhoods accordingly followed the expansion of transportation, pushing farther and farther from the city's center. The South Fountain neighborhood had pressed southward several more blocks by the 1880s. People could more easily choose to live farther away from their place of employment.

In 1909, Springfield embarked on an ambitious public improvements campaign that including paving streets, laying cement sidewalks, and adding curbs and gutters. A realtor noted that "Springfield is a city of homes, an unusually large proportion of her people owning the houses in which they live. This contributes to a stability of population and makes the city everywhere more attractive." (Frantz Scrapbook) In addition to single and two-family homes, a 1914 Springfield Daily News article about apartment buildings discussed the popularity of flats (apartment buildings) in the city, concluding "that Springfield is steadily taking on metropolitan airs is shown in the number of flat buildings being planned by architects..." By the 1920s, growth was steady in all areas and facets of the city. "Major industry continued to show growth between 1919 and 1925, which was followed by similar developments in the business districts and in the residential areas" (Foust). The city continued to annex land to meet housing needs until well into the 20th century. Growth continued to be unplanned, however, as the city did not have a planning program until the 1940s.

During the mid-20th century, Springfield continued to grow in both physical size and population. Around 1950, a new era of expansion began, which also gave rise to suburban development. The Chamber of Commerce characterized the decade as having "a vigorous housing boom" with 2,400 new homes built in the city and at least as many in the suburbs (Welcome to Springfield).

As in many industrial communities, the city has experienced ups and downs in recent years, as the community comes to grip with changing economic fortunes. Although historic resources have been lost over time, efforts have also been undertaken to revitalize the community. Among these are the creation of the Springfield Historic Landmarks Commission in 1984, with the goal of preserving and maintaining the important resources that illustrate Springfield's significant history. Since that time, the city's historic neighborhoods have seen a number of significant renovation efforts, and individual properties have been successfully restored, with the Old Springfield City Hall as the Clark County Heritage Center and Frank Lloyd Wright's Westcott House on East High Street as outstanding examples.

Springfield's historic architecture includes a range of styles from the early 19th century to the mid- 20th century. The most common of the city's architectural styles are described and illustrated in the following pages. While many buildings can be assigned a style, it is important to understand that large numbers of buildings are not pure academic interpretations of any particular style. Sometimes, various stylistic features are combined in a single building. In other cases, buildings have no stylistic influences at all and are referred to as "vernacular" buildings. Each building is a product of its time, the owner's or builder's personal tastes and pocketbook, and the availability or popularity of certain designs and materials.

Dates indicating the popularity of home styles vary from geographic area to area, source to source.

† JuditH B. Williams Historic preservation consultant Columbus, Ohio and Frank Elmerm FAIA, Lincoln Street Studio, Columbus, Ohio; Springfield Guidelnes for Historic Properties, Properties, 2020, www.springfieldohio.gov, accessed September, 2021.

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