Circleville Ohio – the town that changed from a circle to a square [photographs & video]

Circleville is the county seat of Pickaway County, Ohio. Christopher Gist, was the first recorded European explorer to the area. When he arrived around 1750, he found ten families of the Delaware Indians from Pennsylvania in a settlement named Maguck.

Town was named after Native American Hopewell culture earthwork

More European settlers by 1810 and they named the new town Circleville after the Native American Hopewell culture earthwork in the area of the settlement. The first town plan was laid out around the earthwork in concentric circles with an octagonal courthouse in the center. However, many of the settlers were dissatisfied with the circular plan so in 1837 the Ohio General Assembly authorized the Circleville Squaring Company to change the circle to a square. This was down in phases. Today, there is no trace of the earthworks, but some buildings retain curved walls that were part of the original circular plan. 

Circleville reminisences: a description of Circleville, Ohio (1825-1840); also an account of the 115-year old sister of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry

Residents suffered in the Great Depression

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Circleville residents suffered like many other parts of the United States as many farms of the district were foreclosed. People who lost homes naturally gravitated toward the town. Artist and photographer Ben Shahn,  captivated the effects of the depression on Circleville in these extraordinary photographs taken in the summer of 1938.

The photos below are of scenes around the courthouse where several men evidently met. Perhaps they were discussing their future.courthouse men sitting

county courthousecounty courthouse with mancourt house circleville, ohio ben shahncourthouse2 circlevillecourthouse and cannon2

This photograph is of the same courthouse in recent times. There appears to be little change in appearance since 1938.

court house today

Town plan changed from a circle to a square

The photograph of the sign on the outskirts of town was taken in the summer of 1938 by Ben Shahn. It indicates the history of changing the circular town plan to a square and also mentions the American Hotel which can be seen in the two photographs under it in 1938 and present day in the last photograph.

Little has changed. The Mason Brothers furniture company under the American Hotel was established by D. C. Throckmorton, who sold it in 1899 to Charles and D. Edward Mason. These progressing and enterprising business men made it one of the leading furniture houses in Pickaway County. In 1906, five salesmen were employed there.

sign on outskirts

american hotelamerican hotel2american hotel today

The photographs below show the ‘hot spot’ in 1938 in Circleville, Ohio. It certainly appears so by the number of men going and coming in these photographs.

Famous jazz musician lived in Circleville

The last photograph is of an African American playing the piano. Sammy Stewart, a famous African American jazz musician in Chicago in 1930 was born in Circleville, Ohio in 1891.  There must have been a very good piano teacher in Circleville when he was growing up. I wonder if the piano player in the photograph is related to Sammy Stewart.

wonder barwonder bar2wonder bar3wonder bar, hot spot circlevillehot spotwonder bar insidewonder bar piano playingAnother famous entertainer from Circleville, Ohio was Vaudeville performer Ted Lewis. He is buried in Circleville and there is a Ted Lewis museum in the Circleville on Main street today.


  1. History of Pickaway County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens
  2. A portrait and biographical record of Portage and Summit counties, Ohio

See More Pictures and Stories on Circleville, Ohio 

Best-selling books by Donna R Causey

Vinegar of the Four Thieves was a recipe that was known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antifungal properties for years. It was even used to cure the Bubonic Plague. See Thomas Jefferson’s recipe in VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She cohost the Podcast: Alabama Grist Mill and developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and

All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

2 Responses to Circleville Ohio – the town that changed from a circle to a square [photographs & video]

  1. Pingback: Some early business owners of Circleville, Ohio - Days Gone By

  2. Sharon says:

    My old hometown, which I still love, although I’ve lived in Oregon since 1969.

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