In 1812, the Ohio legislature designated Columbus as the state capital,with local landowners contributing land and resources for a capitolbuilding and penitentiary. The first Columbus statehouse, a Federal-style structure completed in 1816, stood on the northeast corner ofState and High streets. By the 1830s, the need for a moresubstantial structure was apparent. Cincinnati architect ThomasWalter won the 1838 capitol design contest, though the final designincorporated several designers' ideas, including prominent HudsonRiver School artist Thomas Cole. Construction proceeded slowlybetween 1839 and 1861, weathering political fights, prison labordisputes, and a cholera epidemic. Interior work was sufficientlycomplete by January 1857 for the legislature to hold its firstsession in the new capitol. A National Historic Landmark, theOhio Statehouse stands as one of the finest examples of GreekRevival architecture in America.
Lincoln at the Statehouse. "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 crowdfrom the east terrace of the Statehouse. In his first Ohio speech,Lincoln repeated his conviction that "a house divided against itselfcannot stand" and took issue with Democrat Stephen Douglas' conceptof "popular sovereignty." Published and widely circulated as anaddendum 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.