Mar 28, 2024 - History

NYT article gives snapshot of Columbus from 1981

An overhead view of players playing baseball at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

A look at the former Cooper Stadium and Columbus skyline. The city has changed mightily since the 1980s and this stadium now sits empty. Photo: Jay Laprete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's been 43 years since the life and culture of our capital city was prominently featured in a New York Times article titled, "What's Doing in Columbus, Ohio."

Why it matters: The snapshot of Columbus during the early Reagan years helps showcase just how much has changed since the days of Colo the Gorilla and Lazarus department store.

Let's compare Columbus from 1981 to today:

Travel: A round trip between New York and Columbus once ranged from $260-292, but we can find trips now for cheaper than $200. Take that, '80s!

  • "A car is not a necessity but a great convenience for this spread-out city," reporter Michael Cull wrote. (Fact check: True.)
  • A monorail was proposed in 1987, but never panned out.
  • The city's car dependency is slowly changing, and while we are still one of the largest places without passenger rail, it may be coming.

🏨 Lodging: Cull called the Hyatt Regency our "newest and most luxurious" hotel, with daily rooms between $67-98.

  • The hotel is still around and charges north of $200 most days.
  • The most luxurious hotel in 2024 might be Le Méridien Columbus, featuring art collections, spa suites and rooms for well over $1,000 per night on big weekends.

🔎 Sightseeing: NYT suggested tours of the Statehouse and German Village, "a neighborhood rescued from urban renewal."

  • COSI on East Broad Street ("called 'Coe-Sye' by residents'') got a special shout out for its coal mine and space capsule exhibits. The museum moved to the Scioto riverfront in 1999.
  • Ticket price then: $2-3.50. Now: $23-30.

🍽 Dining: "Columbus is not known for exceptional food, but good meals can be had at many restaurants," Cull wrote. Ouch.

  • Several restaurants listed have since closed, like One Nation on the Nationwide Building's 38th floor and Ziggy's Continental, once heralded for its fine dining.
  • Cull gave the old Spaghetti Warehouse some love, long before it regrettably moved downtown.

🏇 Sports: The Blue Jackets, Crew and Fury did not exist back then. Cull surprisingly omitted the Ohio State Buckeyes.

  • He did recommend a Columbus Clippers game at Cooper Stadium, which now sits empty.
  • The Clippers changed major league affiliation from the Yankees to the Guardians and now entertain fans at Huntington Park.
  • The story also mentioned horse racing at Beulah Park in Grove City, but the last race was held in 2014.

Worth a click: Columbus author Carol Weston's clever response to the NYT article.


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