Ohio and its capital Columbus have been called “America’s Crossroads” Principal transportation routes of the 19th century including the extensive canal and railroad networks found major intersections within the boundaries of the state. In the 20th century, the National Road, the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, three of the most significant early transcontinental automobile routes, all passed through the Buckeye state.

Through a myriad of industries, Ohio also played a significant role in the development and advancement of the automobile and automobile travel. From the first concrete pavement in the United States, to the manufacture of the first rubber automobile tire, to the refining of oil and selling of gasoline, Ohio companies contributed along the way. Other companies are noted for their specific contributions to roadside culture: an operating system for selling hamburgers, a prefabricated building concept, and innovations in the fast food industry. This conference will examine a few of these companies and celebrate Ohio’s role in forming the national landscape that has captured our attention.

You can relive the whole experience with our tour guide here!

Conference Overview
“Made in Ohio” is the Society for Commercial Archeology’s first conference in the state. The event is structured around three basic themes:

Enameled Eateries – Since 1934, the White Castle System has been headquartered in Columbus, including their own Porcelain Steel Buildings Company. Considered the original fast food restaurant, White Castle will be featured through presentations and tour stops. A presentation on the history of porcelain enameling will serve as background for discussions about the building systems.

Durable Domiciles – Born of roadside service stations and descended from those gleaming White Castles, the Lustron home, the all-steel porcelain enameled prefabricated house, was manufactured in Columbus from 1947-50. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the height of the Lustron era, the program features a significant Lustron component.

Fast Food – From the opening reception to our keynote address, Ohio’s mark on the roadside will be examined via the fast food industry. Ohio has been the home state of a surprisingly high number of roadside eating enterprises, as well as the originator of the country’s best-selling ice cream treat.

Pre-Conference Activities

DaNite Sign Company Tour
A guided tour of a full-service sign shop involved with a number of roadside signage programs.

Walking Tour of German Village
A guided tour of one of the premier historic neighborhoods in Columbus.

Signs of Downtown Columbus
A self-guided tour of some of the great signs found in downtown Columbus.

Opening Reception
Wendy’s Original Restaurant,  Broad Street.

Keynote Address
“White Castle to Wendy’s: Why Ohio is a Chain Restaurant Mecca”
Philip Langdon, author of Orange Roofs, Golden Arches: The Architecture of American Chain Restaurants.


“Isaly’s Innovations”
Brian Butko, author of Pennsylvania Traveler’s Guide: The Lincoln Highway and a recently completed history of Islay’s Dairy, now awaiting publication. Once based in Mansfield, Ohio, Isaly’s is the originator of the famous Klondike bar.

“Porcelain Enameling in the U.S. – Its History and Products”
Woodrow Carpenter, ceramic engineer with a 60 year career in all phases of the enameling industry. Founder of the Enamelist Society, an international organization (1986).

“America’s Castles for America’s Food: The Rise of the White Castle System”
David Gerard Hogan, Associate Professor of American History at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and author of Sellen ’em by the Sack: White Cast/e and the Creation of American Food.

“Lustron, the Revolution that Failed”
Dr. Ray Luce, Interim Director of the Historic Preservation, Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. A noted Lustron authority, Dr. Luce was the Ohio State Historic Preservation Officer for fifteen years. He helped establish the Lustron archive and inventory at the Ohio Historical Society.

“Lessons Learned with Prefabricated Structures: The Lustron Homes at Quantico”
Martin J. Reddy, AlA, architect for the comprehensive renovation of 60 Lustron homes at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, will discuss the practical aspects of Lustron home repair and restoration.

Lustron Panel Discussion
Moderator: Jim Morrow, Director of the Alt-Steel Historic Home, a Lustron House Museum (now closed) in Chesterton, Indiana. Conference participants (especially Lustron owners) are encouraged to bring questions to this open discussion.

Conference Banquet at the Kahiki
An evening at the Kahiki, “the world’s most elaborate Polynesian supper club.” This fabulous 1961 tiki paradise, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, was featured in a re-cent issue of the SCA Journal.

Saturday Bus Tour
This all-day tour  featured a visit to the White Castle System headquarters to view a collection of historical artifacts; several Lustron homes, including one interior tour; the Longaberger Company’s corporate headquarters, a giant basket-shaped building; and a variety of vintage motels, tourist cabins, gas stations, and 19th century markers along the National Road.

SCA gratefully acknowledges contributions from DaNite Sign Company, German Village Society, Jeff and Kristine Kidorf, Wendy’s International Inc., The Westin Great Southern Hotel, and White Castle System Inc made in support of this conference.

Presented by the Society for Commercial Archeology and Ohio Historic Preservation Office, with the Columbus Landmarks Foundation and generous support from the National Signs of the Times Museum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Post comment