Columbus is a city in and the county seat of Bartholomew County, Indiana, United States. The population was 44,061 at the 2010 census. Located approximately forty miles (64 km) south of Indianapolis, on the east fork of the White River, it is the state's 20th largest city. It is also the principal city of the Columbus, Indiana, metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Bartholomew County.
Columbus is currently ranked 11th in the US on the list of safest cities per population. National Geographic Traveler ranked Columbus 11th on its historic destinations list in late 2008, describing the city as "authentic, unique, and unspoiled." Columbus won the national contest "America in Bloom" in 2006, and in 2004 it was named one of "The Ten Most Playful Towns" by Nick Jr. Family Magazine. The July 2005 edition of GQ Magazine named Columbus one of the "62 Reasons to Love Your Country." Columbus is the headquarters of the engine company Cummins, Inc.
The land which is now Columbus was bought by General John Tipton and Luke Bonesteel in 1820. General Tipton built a log cabin on Mt. Tipton, a small hill overlooking White River and the surrounding flat, heavily forested and swampy valley. The town was known as Tiptonia, named in honor of General Tipton. The town's name was changed to Columbus on March 20, 1821. General Tipton was upset by the name change and decided to leave the newly founded town. He later became the Highway Commissioner for the State of Indiana and was assigned to building a highway from Indianapolis, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky. When the road reached 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.
It was recorded for years in the local history books that the land on which Columbus sits was donated by General Tipton; however, a deed purporting to show a sale of the land was acquired in 2003 by Historic Columbus Indiana. The deed indicated that General Tipton actually sold the land.
A ferry was established to avoid crossing both the Flatrock and Driftwood rivers, which join only a short distance above the site of the ferry. This became a village of three or four log cabins, 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 reached Columbus from Madison, Indiana in 1844. This was the Madison branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroad fostered the growth of the community into one of the largest communities in Indiana, and three more railroads reached the city by 1850.
Columbus is host to the oldest theater in the State of Indiana, the Crump Theatre, which was built in 1889 by John Crump. Today the building is an historical landmark and an all-ages venue with occasional musical performances. Columbus also is host to the former oldest continually operated bookstore in Indiana: Cummins Bookstore. The bookstore first began operations in 1892 and closed in late 2007.
The Irwin Union Bank building was built in 1954. It was designated 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) 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. Cummins, Inc. is by far the region's largest employer, and the Infotech Park accounts for a sizable number of research jobs in Columbus proper. Just south of Columbus are the North American headquarters of Toyota Industries, 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.
Because Columbus is far enough from Indianapolis, it benefits tremendously from nearby commuters who recognize Columbus as a major city in its own right. Nearly 19,000 workers commute into the city from the surrounding townships and villages. In recent years city officials have explored ways to revitalize the city and return Columbus to the days when Miller's architectural innovation made it one of the most envied cities in the US. Economic development, widespread beautification innovations, various tax incentives, and increased law enforcement have helped Columbus overcome what some considered a slump during the 1980s and 1990s.