The Cultural Arts Center is housed in a renovated building that connects us to the earliest plans and places in our community's history. In 1812, the high east bank of the Scioto River was designated as the capitol of the new State of Ohio. In 1814, Columbus' first penitentiary was built on this plot of land only to be razed in the 1850's when The Ohio State Penitentiary was built at the corners of Spring and Neil Streets.
In 1861, this building, one of the first Ohio State Arsenals, designed specifically for the storage of arms, was completed at a cost of $14,000. It continued to operate as the Ohio State Arsenal until the mid-1970s.
In 1973, Melvin B. Dodge, then Director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, toured the Arsenal and saw its unique possibilities. At the time, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department's very popular Adult Art Center was housed in a restored firehouse on Oak Street. The community glowed with praise for the artists and professional atmosphere that had emerged serendipitously in the proximity of our local art college. The firehouse was operating above capacity, serving hundreds of adults in various art classes each year. Dodge decided to move the Art Center from the over-crowded firehouse into the capacious Arsenal.
By 1975, at Governor James A. Rhodes’ order, the National Guard and the State of Ohio had negotiated a 99-year lease arrangement with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.
The City of Columbus raised $250,000 to secure the development of the Center, and then Mayor Tom Moody signed the 99-year lease agreement for the sum of $1.00 per year. In 1976, Schooley-Cornelius Associates were chosen as architects from a field of eleven area architectural proposals. On December 24, 1976, the United States Department of Commerce for Economic Development Administration awarded a grant of $1,371,733.00 for Phase II of the renovation, and contract for the work was awarded to the Altman-Coady Company.
The Ohio State Arsenal was officially dedicated as the Columbus Cultural Arts Center on Monday, June 11, 1978.