Capital University was officially incorporated in 1850 when the Ohio General Assembly granted the school its charter, although it was founded twenty years earlier in 1830 as a Lutheran seminary in Canton, OH. Two years later they moved to a location on South High Street in Columbus, OH. In 1850 the university moved to a building near Goodale Park in Columbus. At the time, students could enroll in a School of Letters that offered courses in Greek, Latin, mathematics, history, science, and philosophy. By 1873 the university realized that if it wanted to continue to grow, this location would not be adequate. A proposal was accepted to purchase land east of Alum Creek to build a new campus. In May of 1876 the students and faculty left their former location in the city and moved to their new location, which was then surrounded by farmland.
The first building to be built on this new campus was Lehmann Hall, named after Wilhelm Lehmann, the president of Capital University from 1857-1880. At the time of the move in 1876, Leonard Boarding Hall was not completely constructed, but was still used that first year. Lehmann Hall was used for a variety of functions over the years; including housing administrative offices, classrooms, and dormitories. When the first women were admitted to the university in 1919, a lounge area was provided in Lehmann Hall for them to use between classes. During World War II, the Fifth College Training Detachment of the United States Army was located at Capital University and housed in Lehmann Hall. The servicemen who participated in the program attended the university for six months of training. Considerable wear and tear had taken its toll by the 1980s, and in 1988 the Board of Trustees made the very difficult decision to raze the building, which had been vacant for eight years. At that time, only the first floor was being used for storage.
In 1959, due to growth, Capital University and the seminary became separate entities. This way each administration could better manage the needs of each institution and Capital could concentrate on a well-rounded curriculum for its students. Over the years, Capital has cultivated many highly regarded programs, including its Conservatory of Music and nursing, education, business and law programs. Today, the university has 3,628 total students enrolled, and they remain an integral part of the Bexley community.
Photos Courtesy of Bexley Historical Society and Columbus Metropolitan Library
“Capital’s First Building is Coming Down- Lehmann Hall, Called Unsafe, Will be Razed” by Jill Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch, November 7, 1998
These Hundred Years by David Benton Owens, 1950
“Capital University: A Lutheran University of Service to Many” by James L. Burke, Cradles of Conscience: Ohio’s Independent College and Universities, pages 78-90