|By Brian Williams
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), The Columbus Dispatch
April 18, 2003
The intersection of Broad and High streets is more than the crossroads of Ohio.
And the northeastern corner is more than a collection of crumbling buildings.
It's where the National Football League charted its growth from a collection of small-town teams to a well-organized association of teams in most major cities.
NFL researcher Chris Willis hopes that fact will help preserve at least one of the buildings on the corner.
From 1927 until 1939, the NFL office was on the 11th floor of the narrow, 12-story building at 16 E. Broad St. Joseph F. Carr, president and secretary of the NFL, also had the offices of the American Basketball League and the Columbus Baseball Co. in the suite.
"He helped build the league," said Willis, head of the research library for NFL films in Mount Laurel, N.J. "He literally changed the league. He patterned it after baseball and took it from small towns to the big cities."
Willis, who grew up in Columbus, is researching Carr's career. When he learned of crumbling buildings and redevelopment plans at Broad and High, he feared that the 103-year-old skyscraper at 16 E. Broad might be demolished.
No plans have been announced for the building, which is owned by Mid-Continent Realty and managed by Schottenstein Management.
"We're waiting to see what happens with the rest of that block," said Donald I. Camerino, director of property management. "I'm not sure if it's adaptable to being reused unless it's tied to (an adjacent building). If anything, it may become part of something larger on the corner."
Casto Communities is considering redevelopment plans for other buildings in the area, including the adjacent skyscraper at 8 E. Broad. Tenants in several three- and four-story buildings at the corner are preparing to move after city inspectors found last month that the buildings are crumbling and dangerous.
Casto will stabilize the buildings while it makes plans for the corner, said Bill Riat, president of the company.
The buildings at 8 and 16 E. Broad were designed by architect Frank L. Packard. Both had a large number of small offices until the upper floors were vacated three years ago because they didn't meet modern fire codes.
Neither building is on the National Register of Historic Places, but Barbara Powers of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office said both buildings are architecturally significant because they are among the city's first skyscrapers. The presence of NFL offices in 16 E. Broad is not enough to give it landmark status.
According to city directories, the NFL office was in rooms 1115-1116 at 16 E. Broad from 1927 through 1939, when Carr died.
He was coach of the Columbus Panhandles, a fierce band of semipro football players, and was one of five organizers of the American Professional Football Association, which began play in 1920 and became the NFL in 1922. The league headquarters came to Columbus in 1921, with Carr as president.
The Panhandles -- later the Tigers -- were charter members of the league but were disbanded by the time Carr moved the NFL office to 16 E. Broad.
In 1920, Columbus was among the larger cities with pro football franchises. Chicago had two teams, and Akron, Buffalo, Canton, Cleveland, Dayton and Detroit each had one. Rounding out the league were teams from Rochester, N.Y.; Decatur and Rock Island, Ill.; and Hammond and Muncie, Ind.
By 1933, the stripped-down, 10-team league was mostly in big markets: Boston, Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The only small-market teams were the Green Bay Packers and the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, who in 1934 became the Detroit Lions.
Carr's leadership, Willis said, completed the transition of football from a small, semipro venture to the big leagues.
"He's so underrated," Willis said. "That he did all these things from the city where I was born makes me feel proud to be with the NFL. We will be supportive of any efforts to preserve the building. That would be the perfect thing to get people aware of what he did."
Copyright 2003 The Columbus Dispatch
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