25 Things You Should Know About Columbus, Ohio

Davel5957/iStock
Davel5957/iStock

Columbus, Ohio, America’s 15th-largest city, is a diverse town with funky festivals, die-hard sports fans, and a famously long-lived gorilla. Read on for more wacky facts about this capital city.

1) Forty-eight percent of Americans live within 600 miles of Columbus. Major cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City are less than a day’s drive away.

2) When Ohio obtained its statehood in 1803, Columbus hadn’t been built yet. Chillicothe, a modest city on the Scioto River, was the original state capital. The seat of government temporarily moved to Zanesville in 1810 before Chillicothe regained its capital city status three years later.

3) In 1810, Ohio’s general assembly voted to choose a new, permanent capital. The lawmakers agreed that whichever locale they picked would have to lie within 40 miles of the state’s geographic center. Four businessmen from the small town of Franklinton offered 20 free acres of land. On February 14, 1812, this land was selected as the site of Ohio’s current state capital. Columbus would be incorporated in 1816.

4) Famous Columbusites include R.L. Stine, author of the bestselling Goosebumps novels, and celebrity chef Guy Fieri. His birth name was actually Ferry, an Americanized version of his grandparents' surname Fieri, which he adopted in 1995.

5) Columbus is an incubator for fast food empires. The very first Wendy’s restaurant opened on East Broad Street in November 1969. Today, the franchise is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

6) Burger chain White Castle was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, but has been based in Columbus since 1933.

7) The Ohio state legislature picked the name Columbus for the still-unfinished capital on February 20, 1812. It had also considered a much duller alternative: Ohio City.

8) Columbus has had many aliases, including Cowtown and Cbus. Arch City, an 1890s nickname, stemmed from the city's construction of arches over key streets. The arches provided power to the city's new electric streetcars.

9) The Ohio Historical Center on Velma Avenue has a genuine two-headed calf, stuffed and mounted for display. The short-lived anomaly came into this world in 1941 in Brookeville, Ohio.

10) In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was visiting then-Governor William Dennison Jr. at the Ohio Statehouse when he learned that the Electoral College results were in and he’d been elected president.

11) Established in 1876, the North Market was originally located at the city’s public cemetery on Spruce Street. It has since moved into a multistory building. A favorite of both locals and visitors, the market houses more than 30 vendors selling prepared Midwestern and international foods, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and beer.

12) After the National Hockey League awarded a franchise to Columbus on June 25, 1997, a region-wide “name the team” contest was held. Out of more than 14,000 entries, the Columbus Blue Jackets was picked. The name stems from the fact that, during the Civil War, Columbus manufactured thousands of blue uniforms for Union troops. Ohio also provided more soldiers to the Union forces than any other state.

13) At The Ohio State University (yes, “The” is part of its name), football is a really big deal, as are the Columbus-based school's homecoming festivities. In 1926, the student body elected Rosalind Morrison as homecoming queen, but there was evidence of voter fraud: Only 10,000 people were eligible to cast ballots, yet Morrison received 12,000 votes. So the homecoming crown went to her runner-up, Ms. Maudine Ormsby, a cow nominated by the College of Agriculture. Maudine attended the homecoming parade but missed the dance.

15) OSU graduate and Columbus resident Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock was the first woman to fly solo around the world. Her chosen ride was a single-engine Cessna named the "Spirit of Columbus," which took off on March 19, 1964 from the Port Columbus International Airport. Twenty-nine days later, 5000 admirers gathered to watch Mock’s triumphant return.

16) Every July (usually on the Fourth), Columbusites gather to promote “satire, liberty, and lunacy” at the annual Doo Dah Parade. Just about everybody can participate in this decidedly offbeat spectacle. One might see drummers wearing Easter Island heads, Rocky Horror cosplayers, or mustache-wearing cars. The undisputed highlight, however, has to be the Marching Fidels, a group of Castro impersonators who “recruit” spectators into the Cuban army.

17) Colo, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, is the world’s oldest captive gorilla. Born on December 22, 1956, she was also the first gorilla to be bred in captivity. Her parents, Millie and Mac, were both wild-caught apes from French Cameroon who had been shipped to Columbus in 1951. Before this western lowland gorilla was known as Colo, a portmanteau of Columbus and Ohio, she was named Cuddles.

18) If you’re in Columbus during the warmer months, the Park of Roses is a must-see. This colorful, 13-acre garden within Whetstone Park contains more than 11,000 bushes representing 350 types of roses. Some varieties date back to the turn of the 20th century.

19) A bronze statue of action star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is located downtown and celebrates his relationship to Ohio’s capital. In 1970, Schwarzenegger won a Columbus weight-lifting contest over several better-known athletes and told event organizer Jim Lorimer, “When I retire from bodybuilding, I’ll be back, and you and I will put together a major bodybuilding competition right here, every year.” They teamed up to create the Mr. Olympia contest (1975-1980); in 1989 Schwarzenegger launched the Arnold Sports Festival, one of the biggest fitness expos on earth, which takes place annually in Columbus.

20) At the turn of the 20th century, elementary schools in Ohio taught kindergarten through 10th grade and only 7 percent of Columbus students went on to get their high school diplomas. To increase the number of graduates, administrators opened America’s first middle school, Indianola Junior High School, in 1909, to teach 7th through 9th grades.

21) The suburb of Dublin is the home of 109 concrete ears of corn. In 1994, artist Michael Cochran built the sculptures to honor Ohio’s agricultural roots and arranged them in rows in a field. Each statue is 6 feet, 3 inches tall. Officially, this outdoor artistic display is known as Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges). Unofficially, it’s called Cornhenge.

22) The OSU Buckeyes play at legendary Ohio Stadium. Capable of seating 104,944 scarlet-clad fans, it's America’s fourth-largest on-campus college football facility. Since 1949, average home-game attendance has never fallen below fourth place in the national rankings.

23) So far, the United States has had 44 different presidents. Eight hailed from Ohio: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding. Each of the Ohio Statehouse's hearing rooms [PDF] is named after one of them.

24) Columbus has a thriving LGBT community. According to a 2015 Gallup estimate, 4.3 percent of residents in the greater metro area identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Columbus Pride Parade has been around since 1981 and now ranks among the largest in the Midwest, attracting about 500,000 participants and spectators each year.

25) Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat immortalized a group of French picnickers in his masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, the first work in which he used his new technique called Pointillism. Columbus, in turn, celebrates Seurat's figures in Topiary Park, where shrubberies have been trimmed into the shape of every person in the painting.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.