Side A: In 1812, the Ohio legislature designated Columbus as the state capital, with local landowners contributing land and resources for a capitol building and penitentiary. The first Columbus statehouse, a Federal-style structure completed in 1816, stood on the northeast corner of State and High streets. By the 1830s, the need for a more substantial structure was apparent. Cincinnati architect Thomas Walter won the 1838 capitol design contest, though the final design incorporated several designers’ ideas, including prominent Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole. Construction proceeded slowly between 1839 and 1861, weathering political fights, prison labor disputes, and a cholera epidemic. Interior work was sufficiently complete by January 1857 for the legislature to hold its first session in the new capitol. A National Historic Landmark, the Ohio Statehouse stands as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in America.
Side B: This slavery element is a durable element of discord among us “we shall probably not have perfect peace in this country with it until it either masters the free principle in our government, or is mastered by the free principle.” On September 16, 1859, Abraham Lincoln addressed a small crowd from the east terrace of the Statehouse. In his first Ohio speech, Lincoln repeated his conviction that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and took issue with Democrat Stephen Douglas’ concept of “popular sovereignty”. Published and widely circulated as an addendum to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln’s Columbus speech helped stake a firm position for the Republican Party in the 1860 presidential campaign that followed. Lincoln twice returned to Columbus: once on February 13, 1861 to address a joint session of the legislature prior to his inauguration, and one last time, on April 29, 1865. From 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Lincoln’s body lay in state in the Rotunda as 50,000 mourners filed through the Statehouse to pay their respects.
Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, and The Ohio Historical Society