Columbus, Indiana

Coordinates: 39°12′50″N 85°54′40″W / 39.213998°N 85.911056°W / 39.213998; -85.911056
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Columbus, Indiana
The Robert N. Stewart Bridge (foreground), with the Bartholomew County Courthouse and First Christian Church visible in the background.
The Robert N. Stewart Bridge (foreground), with the Bartholomew County Courthouse and First Christian Church visible in the background.
"Athens on the Prairie"
"Unexpected. Unforgettable"[1]
Location of Columbus in Bartholomew County, Indiana.
Location of Columbus in Bartholomew County, Indiana.
Columbus is located in Indiana
Columbus is located in the United States
Coordinates: 39°12′50″N 85°54′40″W / 39.21389°N 85.91111°W / 39.21389; -85.91111
CountryUnited States
 • MayorMary Ferdon (R)
 • Total28.75 sq mi (74.47 km2)
 • Land28.41 sq mi (73.59 km2)
 • Water0.34 sq mi (0.88 km2)
Elevation627 ft (191 m)
 • Total50,474
 • Density1,776.44/sq mi (685.90/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)812 & 930
FIPS code18-14734[4]
GNIS feature ID2393609[3]
WebsiteCity of Columbus Indiana
Columbus City Hall

Columbus (/kəˈlʌmbəs/) is a city in, and the county seat of, Bartholomew County, Indiana, United States.[5] The population was 50,474 at the 2020 Census. The city is known for its architectural significance, having commissioned numerous noted works of modern architecture and public art since the mid-20th century; the annual program Exhibit Columbus celebrates this legacy. Located about 40 mi (64 km) south of Indianapolis, on the east fork of the White River, it is the state's 20th-largest city. It is the principal city of the Columbus, Indiana metropolitan statistical area, which encompasses all of Bartholomew County. Columbus is the birthplace of former Indiana Governor and former Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.

Columbus is the headquarters of the engine company Cummins, Inc. In 2004 the city was named as one of "The Ten Most Playful Towns" by Nick Jr. Family Magazine.[6] In the July 2005 edition of GQ magazine, Columbus was named as one of the "62 Reasons to Love Your Country".[7] Columbus won the national contest "America in Bloom" in 2006,[8] and in late 2008, National Geographic Traveler ranked Columbus 11th on its historic destinations list, describing the city as "authentic, unique, and unspoiled."[9]


The land developed as Columbus was bought by General John Tipton and Luke Bonesteel in 1820. Tipton built a log cabin on Mount Tipton, a small hill overlooking White River and the surrounding flat, heavily forested and swampy valley. It held wetlands of the river. The town was first known as Tiptona, named in honor of Tipton. The town's name was changed to Columbus on March 20, 1821. Many people believe Tipton was upset by the name change, but no evidence exists to prove this. Nonetheless, he decided to leave the newly founded town and did not return.[10]

Tipton was later appointed as the highway commissioner for the State of Indiana and was assigned to building a highway from Indianapolis, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky. When the road approached Columbus, Tipton constructed the first bypass road ever built; it detoured south around the west side of Columbus en route to Seymour.

Joseph McKinney was the first to plot the town of Columbus, but no date was recorded. Local history books for years said that the land on which Columbus sits was donated by Tipton. But in 2003, Historic Columbus Indiana acquired a deed showing that Tipton had sold the land.

A ferry was established below the confluence of the Flatrock and Driftwood rivers, which form the White River. A village of three or four log cabins developed around the ferry landing, and a store was added in 1821. Later that year, Bartholomew County was organized by an act of the State Legislature and named to honor the famous Hoosier militiaman, General Joseph Bartholomew. Columbus was incorporated on June 28, 1864.

The first railroad in Indiana was constructed to Columbus from Madison, Indiana in 1844. This eventually became the Madison branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroad fostered the growth of the community into one of the largest in Indiana, and three more railroads reached the city by 1850.

The Crump Theatre in Columbus, built in 1889 by John Crump, is the oldest theater in Indiana. Today the building is included within the Columbus Historic District. Before it closed permanently in 2010, it was an all-ages venue with occasional musical performances.

The Cummins Bookstore began operations in the city in 1892. Until late 2007, when it closed, it was the oldest continually operated bookstore in Indiana.

The Irwin Union Bank building was built in 1954. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2001 in recognition of its unique architecture. The building consists of a one-story bank structure adjacent to a three-story office annex. A portion of the office annex was built along with the banking hall in 1954. The remaining larger portion, designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, was built in 1973. Eero Saarinen designed the bank building with its glazed hall to be set off against the blank background of its three-story brick annex. Two steel and glass vestibule connectors lead from the north side of this structure to the annex. The building was designed to distance the Irwin Union Bank from traditional banking architecture, which mostly echoed imposing, neoclassical style buildings of brick or stone. Tellers were behind iron bars and removed from their customers. Saarinen worked to develop a building that would welcome customers rather than intimidate them.


Columbus has been home to many manufacturing companies, including Noblitt-Sparks Industries, which built radios under the Arvin brand in the 1930s,[11] and Arvin Industries, now Meritor, Inc. After merging with Meritor Automotive on July 10, 2000, the headquarters of the newly created ArvinMeritor Industries was established in Troy, Michigan, the home of parent company, Rockwell International. It was announced in February 2011 that the company name would revert to Meritor, Inc.[12]

Cummins, Inc. is by far the region's largest employer, and the Infotech Park in Columbus[13] accounts for a sizable number of research jobs in the city itself. Just south of Columbus are the North American headquarters of Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc., the world's largest material handling (forklift) manufacturer.

Other notable industries include architecture, a discipline for which Columbus is famous worldwide. The late J. Irwin Miller (then president and chairman of Cummins Engine Company) launched the Cummins Foundation, a charitable program that helps subsidize a large number of architectural projects throughout the city by up-and-coming engineers and architects.

Early in the 20th century, Columbus also was home to a number of pioneering car manufacturers, including Reeves, which produced the unusual four-axle Octoauto and the twin rear-axle Sextoauto, both around 1911.[14]


The Driftwood and Flatrock Rivers converge at Columbus to form the East Fork of the White River.

According to the 2010 census, Columbus has a total area of 27.886 square miles (72.22 km2), of which 27.5 square miles (71.22 km2) (or 98.62%) is land and 0.386 square miles (1.00 km2) (or 1.38%) is water.[15]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[16]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[17] of 2010, there were 44,061 people, 17,787 households, and 11,506 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,602.2 inhabitants per square mile (618.6/km2). There were 19,700 housing units at an average density of 716.4 per square mile (276.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.9% White, 2.7% African American, 0.2% Native American, 5.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.5% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.8% of the population.

There were 17,787 households, of which 33.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.3% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.00.

The median age in the city was 37.1 years. 25.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.3% were from 25 to 44; 24.9% were from 45 to 64; and 14.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 39,059 people, 15,985 households, and 10,566 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,505.3 inhabitants per square mile (581.2/km2). There were 17,162 housing units at an average density of 661.4 per square mile (255.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.32% White, 2.71% Black or African American, 0.13% Native American, 3.23% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.39% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. 2.81% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 15,985 households, out of which 31.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 29.1% of all households were composed of individuals, and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39, and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 25.7% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24 years, 29.5% from 25 to 44 years, 23.0% from 45 to 64 years, and 13.7% over the age of 65. The median age was 36 years. There were 92.8 males for every 100 females and 89.6 males for every 100 females over age 18.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,723, and the median income for a family was $52,296. Males had a median income of $40,367 versus $24,446 for females, and the per capita income was $22,055. About 6.5% of families and 8.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]

Henry Moore's Large Arch.

Columbus is a city known for its modern architecture and public art. J. Irwin Miller, 2nd CEO and a nephew of a co-founder of Cummins Inc., the Columbus-headquartered diesel engine manufacturer, instituted a program in which the Cummins Foundation paid the architects' fees, provided the client selected a firm from a list compiled by the foundation. The plan was initiated with public schools and was so successful that the foundation decided to offer such design support to other non-profit and civic organizations. The high number of notable public buildings and public art in the Columbus area, designed by such individuals as Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, Cesar Pelli, and Richard Meier, led to Columbus earning the nickname "Athens on the Prairie."[18]

Seven buildings, constructed between 1942 and 1965, are National Historic Landmarks, and approximately 60 other buildings sustain the Bartholomew County seat's reputation as a showcase of modern architecture.[19] National Public Radio once devoted an article to the town's architecture.[20]

In 2015, Landmark Columbus was created as a program of Heritage Fund - The Community Foundation of Bartholomew county.

In addition to the Columbus Historic District and Irwin Union Bank, the city has numerous buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including seven National Historic Landmarks of modernist architecture: Bartholomew County Courthouse, Columbus City Hall, First Baptist Church, First Christian Church, Haw Creek Leather Company, Mabel McDowell Elementary School, McEwen-Samuels-Marr House, McKinley School, Miller House, North Christian Church, and The Republic Newspaper Office.[21][22]

The city is the basis for the 2017 film Columbus by independent filmmaker Kogonada. The film was shot on location in Columbus over 18 days in the summer of 2016.[23]

National Historic Landmarks[edit]

Other notable Modern buildings[edit]

Notable historic buildings[edit]

Public art[edit]

Exhibit Columbus[edit]

In May 2016, Landmark Columbus launched Exhibit Columbus as a way to continue the ambitious traditions of the past into the future. Exhibit Columbus features annual programming that alternates between symposium and exhibition years.[31]


Columbus High School was home to footwear pioneer Chuck Taylor, who played basketball in Columbus before setting out to promote his now famous shoes and the sport of basketball before being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Two local high schools compete within the state in various sports. Columbus North and Columbus East both have competitive athletics and have many notable athletes that go on to compete in college and beyond. Columbus North High School houses one of the largest high school gyms in the United States. CNHS vs CEHS

Indiana Diesels of the Premier Basketball League play their home games at the gymnasium at Ceraland Park, with plans to move to a proposed downtown sports complex in the near future.[32]

Parks and recreation[edit]

Columbus boasts over 700 acres (280 ha) of parks and green space and over 20 miles of People Trails. These amenities, in addition to several athletic and community facilities, including Donner Aquatic Center, Lincoln Park Softball Complex, Hamilton Center Ice Arena, Clifty Park, Foundation for Youth/Columbus Gymnastics Center and The Commons, are managed and maintained by the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.



ColumBUS provides bus service in the city with five routes operating Monday through Saturday.[33]

Roads and highways[edit]

The north–south US Route 31 has been diverted to the northeastern part of the city. Interstate 65 bypasses Columbus to the west. Indiana Route 46 runs-east-west through the southern section of the city.


Freight rail service is provided by the Louisville and Indiana Railroad (LIRC).[34] The LIRC line runs in a north–south orientation along the western edge of Columbus.

The Pennsylvania Railroad's Kentuckyian (Chicago-Louisville) made stops in the city until 1968.[35][36] The PRR and its successor, the Penn Central, ran the Florida-bound South Wind up to 1971.[37][38]

The city has been earmarked as a location for a new Amtrak station along the Chicago-Indianapolis-Louisville rail corridor.[39]


Columbus is served by the Columbus Municipal Airport (KBAK). It is located approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Columbus. The airport handles approximately 40,500 operations per year, with roughly 87% general aviation, 4% air taxi, 8% military and less than 1% commercial service. The airport has two concrete runways; a 6,401-foot runway with approved ILS and GPS approaches (Runway 5-23) and a 5,001 foot crosswind runway, also with GPS approaches, (Runway 14-32).[40]

The nearest commercial airport which currently has scheduled airline service is Indianapolis International Airport (IND), located approximately 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Columbus. Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport are 78 miles (126 km) to the south and 83 miles (134 km) to the southeast, respectively.

Notable people[edit]

This is a list of notable people who were born in, or who currently live, or have lived in Columbus.


The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) is the local school district. High schools include:

Columbus has a public library, a branch of the Bartholomew County Public Library.[42]

Secondary education includes Indiana University–Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), an Ivy Tech campus, a Purdue Polytechnic campus, and an Indiana Wesleyan University education center.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "City of Columbus Indiana". City of Columbus Indiana. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  2. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  3. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Columbus, Indiana
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ "Top Ten Playful Towns in America Revealed Today by Nick Jr. Magazine". PR Newswire. March 22, 2004. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  7. ^ "Columbus features in national publications". Columbus, Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  8. ^ Minnis, Paul (October 2, 2006). "Columbus wins America in Bloom". The Republic. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "Historic Destinations Rated – North America". National Geographic Traveler. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  10. ^ Distler, A. David (October 2008). Anarchy in the Heartland: The Reno Gang Saga. A David Distler. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-9705297-1-8.
  11. ^ McMahon, Morgan E. A Flick of the Switch 1930–1950 (Antiques Electronics Supply, 1990), pp.58–9.
  12. ^ "ArvinMeritor posts loss, changing name". Reuters. February 2, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  13. ^ "Infotech Park of Columbus, Indiana". Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  14. ^ Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877–1925. (New York: Bonanza, 1950), p.122-4.
  15. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  16. ^ "Indiana's Census 2020 Redistricting Data Dashboard". Archived from the original on July 25, 2021. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  18. ^ Swartz, Eric. "Tagline Guru - City Mottos & Monikers". Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  19. ^ Kriplen, Nancy (May 10, 2013). "An Indiana Town Where Big Names Built". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Stamberg, Susan. "Columbus, IN: A Mecca of Architecture". NPR.
  21. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  22. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 10/22/12 through 10/27/12. National Park Service. November 2, 2012.
  23. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 4, 2017). "Sundance Hits 'Step' & Taylor Sheridan's 'Wind River' Blow Into Theaters – Specialty B.O. Preview". Deadline. Retrieved January 1, 2023.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "National Historic Landmarks Survey, Indiana" (PDF). National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  25. ^ "Who We Are". First Baptist Church. Archived from the original on September 9, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  26. ^ "Our Building". First Christian Church. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  27. ^ "Irwin Union Bank and Trust". NHLS. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  28. ^ "National Historic Landmark Nomination – Mabel McDowell" (PDF). National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  29. ^ "Miller House". National Park Service. Archived from the original on July 3, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  30. ^ "North Christian Church Architecture". North Christian Church. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  31. ^ Shaw, Matt. "Columbus, Indiana announces biennial design exhibition to begin in fall 2017 -". Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  32. ^ "The Republic - Diesels hope for hometown support - Columbus, Indiana". Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  33. ^ "Riders Guide" (PDF). Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  34. ^ "Railroad Project" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 28, 2020.
  35. ^ "Pennsylvania Railroad". Official Guide of the Railways, Table 53. 100 (5). National Railway Publication Company. October 1967.
  36. ^ "Penn Central, Table 48, dropped after merger". Official Guide of the Railways. 101 (1). National Railway Publication Company. June 1968.
  37. ^ Edmonson, Harold A. (1972). Journey to Amtrak. Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 102–104. ISBN 978-0890240236.
  38. ^ "Passenger trains operating on the eve of Amtrak" (PDF). Trains. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 24, 2021.
  39. ^ "Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati and Louisville". Amtrak Connects US. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  40. ^ "KBAK - Columbus Municipal Airport". AirNav, LLC. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  41. ^ "Debbi Lawrence Bio, Stats, and Results". Olympics at Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  42. ^ "Hours". Bartholomew County Public Library. Retrieved March 4, 2018.


  • Illustrated Historical Atlas of Bartholomew County, Indiana, 1879 (reprinted by the Bartholomew County Historical Society, 1978)
  • 2003 History of Bartholomew County, Indiana, Volume II, copyright 2003, by the Bartholomew County Historical Society

Further reading[edit]

  • Columbus Indiana in Vintage Postcards, by Tamara Stone Iorio, copyright 2005 by Tamara Stone Iorio, published by Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 0-7385-3449-8
  • "Have you Seen my Town?" by Pamela Dinsmore
  • "Images of America: Columbus" by Patricia Mote
  • "I Discover Columbus" by William Marsh
  • "The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins" by Lyle Cummins
  • "The Engine that Could" by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank and David B. Sicilia
  • "Columbus Indiana" by Balthazar Korab
  • "A Look at Architecture: Columbus Indiana" by the Visitor's Center
  • "People and Places in my Town, Columbus Indiana" by Sylvia Worton
  • "Folk Heroes, Heroines, and Hometown Heritage – From Columbus, Indiana's City Hall Murals and Beyond" is about Columbus' outstanding personality beyond its architecture. ISBN 978-0-615-27621-2, by Rose Pelone Sisson

External links[edit]

39°12′50″N 85°54′40″W / 39.213998°N 85.911056°W / 39.213998; -85.911056