147 Columbus, OH: Buckeyes

[Candy Buckeye]

Before sightseeing, I made sure I was fortified with a buckeye, a candy my mom used to make. It's a ball of very rich peanut butter dipped in bittersweet chocolate. The resulting dark brown shell with one tan dot of exposed filling resembles the fruit of the state tree that was also the nickname of the Ohio State University athletic teams.

[Ohio State Capital]

Ohio was only the fourth state to enter the Union after the original 13 founded the country. Columbus was founded in 1812 and has been the capitol since 1816. This city was chosen because it was in the middle of the state's other big cities, but it somehow managed instead to seem estranged from all of those cities. Columbus's frumpy skyline sprouted out of the fields of middle Ohio, comprised mostly of a series of squat, practical, featureless buildings: hotels, office buildings, administrative hives. Columbus was stunningly bland and unnoticeable. It seemed more like one big suburb with little pockets of urban blight. Columbus was so flat that local Matthew Moorman proposed building a mountain here.

It was now the most populous city in Ohio. That distinction was deceptive. It achieved its size largely due to annexation. The town's area had grown five-fold since 1950. Remember, the state legislature meets here, and the larger the town, the more tax dollars it receives. The explosive growth had turned this once-sleepy cow town into a traffic nightmare. The roads were always under construction. The locals wore T-shirts that said, "Welcome to Columbus: You can't get there from here."

Columbus had always had too many cooks for the soup. The State capitol took fifteen commissioners, seven architects, numberless artisans, and twenty-three years to complete. It cost over one million dollars in mid-1800s money. A statue of McKinley stands in front of the State House--one of four Presidents from Ohio, which calls itself "Birthplace of Presidents."

Columbus's other architectural contribution to America was golf courses. The Big Bear Food Stores in Columbus were part of the legacy of local golf great and links designer Jack Nicklaus.

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