The best view of Columbus, Ohio is hidden in plain sight. You might pass by the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower without thinking twice, but this government building is home to a little-known observatory – and it’s free to visit.The Rhodes States Office Tower stands downtown on East Broad Street, directly north of the Ohio Statehouse. At 41-stories, the granite structure is the tallest building in Columbus. The nondescript government building had an even more nondescript name, State Office Tower, when it was completed in 1974. It was later renamed after James Allen Rhodes, Ohio’s longest-serving governor who championed the construction of the tower.
Four thousand state employees work in the tower every day, but few outsiders know that the building has a secret. The tower is home to an observation deck on the 40th floor, which is free and open to the public on weekdays during business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). To access the observatory, simply enter the building and check in at the reception desk in the lobby. Let security know you would like to visit the observatory provide your driver’s license. Security will print you an ID badge and grant you access to the elevator.
The observatory’s perch at nearly the top of the 629-foot tall tower commands clear views of much of the city. Gaze down at Columbus landmarks like the Ohio Statehouse and old Columbus Dispatch sign. Point out the Continental Center, Franklin Park Conservatory, and Port Columbus International Airport in the distance. Enjoy almost panoramic views of Ohio’s capital city.Local artist Mandi Caskey volunteered to decorate the observatory with a 28-foot mural. The first new piece of public art in the tower since 1972 depicts the four seasons and native plant and animal life in Ohio.
Before you leave, don’t miss the tiny window across from the 40th floor elevators. The western view brings you face-to-face with the Art Deco splendor of the LeVeque Tower, COSI, and the bridges spanning the winding Scioto River.
Rhodes Tower has one more secret up its sleeve. It’s connected by underground tunnels to the Capitol Square parking garage and the basements of the Riffe Center and Huntington Center. The always-open tunnels and public garage are a useful hidden gem to avoid the snow or rain!
Rhodes State Office Tower Observatory
30 E. Broad St., 40th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
- Press, The Associated. “Ohio Begins to Replace Public Art Collection at Rhodes Tower.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 19 Jan. 2017.
- “Rhodes Tower.” Rhodes, Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
- “Secret Columbus: Wonders That Are Hidden in Plain Sight.” Columbus Monthly, Columbus Monthly, 13 Oct. 2014.