Architecture offers a fascinating glimpse into history and trends, and I love planning road trips with an architectural theme.
Whether driving by a cool home or touring a historic church or commercial building, there are many opportunities to see cool buildings in Ohio. And while most of the cool buildings in Ohio are historic, there are some interesting modern buildings in Ohio, too.
Cool Buildings in Ohio
From historic homes full of character to stunning Art Deco buildings to a building shaped like a basket, I’m sharing a few cool and unique buildings to see on your next road trip. While I’ve not provided photos of the interior, except for the former Longaberger basket buildings, all are available for you to visit or tour.
Ohio State House
1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH
If you’re in Columbus and looking for something to do, I suggest taking a free tour of the Ohio State House. I’ve gone several times and always learn something new.
Ohio’s capital city is home to the Ohio State House, one of the oldest working statehouses in the United States. It was completed in 1861 in a Greek Revival style that has now earned the Statehouse a National Historic Landmark designation. Located on Capitol Square in downtown Columbus, the building is still used for government purposes but also includes a public museum and daily tours of the campus.
After your tour, plan to take a walk along the grounds outside to see the statues and monuments, especially the statue called “These are My Jewels” which is part of our Levi Schofield Road Trip in Ohio.
Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection
50 W Broad St, Columbus, OH
If you’re in downtown Columbus, you can’t miss Hotel LeVeque. And I mean this literally. This beautiful building in was once the fifth tallest building in the world and still towers over many buildings in the downtown area. Plus, it is stunning!
Completed in 1927, it was the tallest building in the city of Columbus until 1974. The art deco skyscraper looms 47 stories over Columbus and adds a unique layer to the city’s skyline with a terra cotta finish. After the Great Depression, the building was sold to Leslie LeVeque, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
A major renovation in 2012 added the 150-room boutique hotel under the Marriott Autograph Collection, as well as offices, condominiums, and retail space.
We stayed at Hotel LeVeque for an anniversary and absolutely loved it. The staff was attentive, the room service was great and our room had a great view of the Scioto River.
Want to book a stay? Check out the current rates on Booking.com and stay in this gorgeous property.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH
Another beautiful and historic building in Columbus is the Franklin Park Conservatory. Inspired by the Glass Palace at the Chicago’s World Fair and Columbian Exposition, this Victorian-style building opened in 1985.
At one point in the early 20th century, it was part of the Columbus Zoon and housed animal exhibits. Today, it remains a conservatory open to the public and surrounded by botanical gardens. Special events like Chihuly Nights and Cocktails at the Conservancy make this a repeat destination for anyone living in Central Ohio.
The Franklin Park Conservatory is lovely any time of year, but we especially look forward to visiting at Christmas when it’s transformed with thousands of Christmas lights.
Cincinnati Union Terminal
1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH
The Golden Age of train travel created some stunning train stations across the country, and the Midwest in particular. Cincinnati’s Union Terminal was completed in 1933 and boasted the largest half-dome ceiling in the world at that time.
This Art Deco beauty is a National Historic Landmark and still serves passing trains. The building also houses several museums, including the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, a children’s museum, a library, and an OMNIMAX theater.
It’s worth a trip just to gaze at the outside of this beautiful building, but I’d suggest you take a stroll inside and check out the museums. My kids loved the natural history museum.
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
714 N Portage Path, Akron, OH
If you love sprawling estates, you’ll love this Ohio destination. Once a private home for the founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the estate is now open to the public and is also a popular spot for weddings and private events.
The main house is one of the largest homes in the country, at nearly 65,000 square feet. The Stan Hywet estate includes the mansion, gardens, a lodge, conservatory, and a carriage house. Self-guided tours are available and open to the public from April through December. Limited guided tours are also available.
If you have the time, I highly suggest a Nooks & Crannies tour. My husband and I took one a couple of years ago, and it was a fascinating look at all the behind-the-scenes spaces visitors don’t see.
The Ohio State Reformatory
100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield, OH
One of my favorite Ohio buildings that I’ve visited many times is the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.
It’s hard to believe such a beautiful building was designed as a prison! Opened in 1896, this Levi Schofield creation housed Ohio prisoners until 1990. Shortly after, the building became famous as Shawshank State Prison in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Today, you can take several tours, from self-guided to bus tours that include the prison and other stops along the Shawshank Trail.
Kingwood Center Gardens
50 N Trimble Rd, Mansfield, OH
Another cool building in Mansfield is at Kingwood Center Gardens.
The French Provencale-style mansion was built for Charles Kelley King, an electrical engineer who became President of Ohio Brass, a key player in trolley manufacturing. Construction on a private residence suitable for the 47-acre estate began in 1926. Mr. King established a trust before his death, and in 1953, the estate opened as a public garden.
The home is open for guided tours, as well as the surrounding gardens. There are many things to see here, and fun for all ages!
If you plan to visit, you may want to download our free printable Statues and Fountains scavenger hunt.
Orville Wright Hawthorn Hill
901 Harman Ave, Dayton, OH
This Dayton home is often referred to as the Wright Brothers’ success mansion, as it was built and designed for Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1914. Situated on 17 acres and named for the abundance of Hawthorn trees on the property, Hawthorn Hill remained the Wright family home until Orville died in 1948.
You can now tour the mansion two days a week and see how it’s been restored to its original splendor. All tours of Hawthorn Hill are arranged through Carillon Historical Park via advance, pre-paid reservations. Tour experiences begin and end at Carillon Historical Park.
While in the area, you may want to visit the gravesite of Wilbur and Orville Wright at Woodlawn Cemetery, one of the oldest garden cemeteries in the U.S. It’s listed in our post of the 25+ of the Best Cemeteries to Experience in Ohio BEFORE you Die.
Victorian House Museum
484 Wooster Rd, Millersburg, OH
Originally known as the Brightman House, this Queen Anne-style home was completed in 1902 for an industrialist from Cleveland.
It served as the Brightman home for four years, followed by two years as a sanatorium and another several decades as a private home. It is now part of the Holmes County Historical Society and is run as the Victorian House Museum.
History fans will love this extensive collection of Victorian-era pieces, and ghosthunters will want to sign up for a private guided ghost tour!
When visiting, you may want to check out the Millersburg Glass Museum next door and spend some time exploring downtown Millersburg.
The Pyramid House at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd, Hamilton, OH 45013
In 1987, Harry Wilks of Hamilton, purchased 40 acres of scrubland and went about building an underground home where only the giant glass pyramid is visible. Since that time, he’s added additional acreage and outdoor sculptures, turning the property into an incredible outdoor art museum.
In addition to the large outdoor sculptures, you’ll find a pioneer house on the grounds and an Ancient Sculpture Museum with a Museum Gallery for contemporary exhibits. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is a great place to get outdoors with the family, appreciate the art pieces, and have a picnic.
My favorite way to explore the grounds is by renting an “art cart,” a golf cart that allows you to easily explore the grounds.
Twin City Opera House
15 W Main St, McConnelsville, OH
This glamorous opera house opened in the late 1800s when Morgan County was booming with commerce. Originally the building housed the Town Hall and Opera House and was one of the first buildings in the county to have electric lights.
The Opera House was later fitted to show movies and today still hosts performances of all kinds, including movies and live musical performances.
Of course, a building this old has to be haunted, so public and private ghost hunts are held throughout the year.
Don’t miss our post, 17 Unique and Quirky Things to See in Southeastern Ohio, for a few more ideas of things to do.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Spiegel Grove, Fremont, OH
Ohio has been the birthplace of many U.S. Presidents, including the 19th President, Rutherford B. Hayes. The Hayes family home was built as a summer home for the Hayes family and was completed in 1863.
Throughout the years, many additions were made to house the expanding family, and today, six rooms have been restored to their original furnishings.
The grounds are now also home to a museum, presidential library, and the tomb of President and Mrs. Hayes.
My husband and I visited a few years ago, shortly after the house had undergone a restoration. It is truly exquisite, and we both loved our guided tour!
Athens Lunatic Asylum/ The Ridges
Radar Hill Trail, Athens, OH
The collection of buildings now known as “the Ridges” was once the campus of the Athens Lunatic Asylum from 1874 until 1993.
This is another Levi Scofield project and served many patients over the years. Many who did not return home are buried at a cemetery on the property. Today, the building and surrounding land are part of Athens’ Ohio University, and the main building houses offices, classrooms, and the Kennedy Museum of Art.
The Southeast Ohio History Center offers guided walking tours of the Asylum grounds and cemeteries.
Wellington Ohio Historic Community
This village in Lorain County is a historic destination that could easily take a day or two to see. My husband and I spent an afternoon strolling down the street admiring the homes and then stopped for a meal at Fort’s Old Town Tavern.
The village has over 200 homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. At the center of town, the Wellington Town Hall is one of those historic buildings, with an unusual combination of Byzantine, Gothic, Greek and Spanish architecture.
A stroll or drive around town will reveal many beautiful homes, in addition to fun murals and the only known horse-and-buggy ATM!
Mahoning Avenue NW, Warren, OH
Another collection of historic buildings in Ohio is Warren’s Millionaires Row.
Many mansions were built here by industrialists in the 1800s. Many homes have been preserved and maintained as businesses, museums, or private residences, and you can still see them today along Mahoning Avenue.
Before you visit, download the self-guided walking tour that is available online and treat yourself to a day on Millionaires Row.
Read my post: Plan an Epic Outdoor Getaway and More to Trumbull County for more things to do in the area.
Longaberger Basket Building
While this Dresden building is not historically significant, it is certainly unique. This basket-shaped building was completed in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger basket company.
The unique building is a giant replica of the best-selling Longaberger basket. Sadly, the Longaberger company went out of business in 2018, leaving this giant basket to sit empty.
There have been rumors about a new hotel going into this space, but as of now, it’s still vacant.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1100 E 9th St, Cleveland, OH
Another modern and unique building in Ohio is Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This modern structure opened in 1995 on the shore of Lake Erie. The front of the building resembles a glass pyramid, while the back is a white tower with an adjacent circular structure. One of Cleveland’s most popular attractions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is a must for any music aficionado.
In addition to interactive exhibits and memorabilia, you can also catch live performances at the venue.
This is a LARGE museum, and if you really enjoy music, you could easily spend the day meandering from exhibit to exhibit. At a minimum, I would allow two hours to make your way through.
Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
11400 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH
Another building worth seeing in uptown Cleveland is the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The six-sided glass building was completed in 2012, with four stories and 34,000 square feet of space inside. The modern design is fitting for a contemporary art museum, and the striking building is just as beautiful inside as it is outside.
Each season brings a new exhibit, so you can visit this cool Ohio building over and over, and you’ll never get bored!
There are many beautiful buildings in Cleveland. If you have more time, take a stroll through Wade Oval Circle or Lake View Cemetery, which has a few really cool buildings of its own!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House
85 S Greenmount Ave, Springfield, OH 45505
The Westcott House in Springfield was designed by acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is the only Prairie-style house he designed in Ohio. Built in 1908, it was a single-family residence until the 1940’s when it was turned into multi-units and used as a rental property.
The property underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000’s to restore it to its original splendor and the transformation is remarkable!
Guided tours of the home are available.
The Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky
301 Jackson St, Sandusky, OH 44870
This interesting former Sandusky Post Office building is built in the Neoclassical-style with a unique curved portico.
It was built in 1927, used as a post office, and housed several federal agencies during the years, including U.S. Customs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The post office closed in 1987, and the building became the home of the Merry-Go-Round Museum in 1990. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Benson Ford Shiphouse
1191 Ashburn Ave. Put-in-Bay, OH 43456
I don’t want to make you jealous, but several years ago, I spent the night in the Benson Ford with a group of friends. Overnight stays are not offered for this private vacation home on South Bass Island, but the property is occasionally open for tours.
Are you interested in a bit of history? The shiphouse was originally built in 1924 to be used by the Ford Motor Company as a cargo ship to transport materials on the Great Lakes. Henry Ford even designed the passenger lounge to satisfy his own personal use.
The Benson Ford spent over 50 years in service when it was decommissioned. After that, it was sold to Frank Sullivan of Cleveland, Ohio ,who originally intended to use the ship as a barge. When he decided that was not cost-effective, he had the forecastle deck removed and transported to South Bass Island. The remaining part of the ship was hoisted onto a slab of solid bedrock to be used as a vacation property.
In 1999, the Dykstra (the name after the decommissioning) was sold again to local businessmen Jerry and Brian Kaspar to be used as a private vacation home. The home is located on private property so the best way to see the entire home is by either riding the Jet Express from Port Clinton to Put-in-Bay, riding in a private boat, or by kayaking around the island.
The Benson Ford Shiphouse is probably the most famous of all the buildings on this list and has been featured on The Travel Channel, Home & Garden TV’s Extreme Homes, and more.
Before you send hate mail, please know that this is in no way an extensive list of all the cool buildings in Ohio. I know there are many more, but I’m sharing a small portion of my favorites due to space constraints.
Do you have a favorite building or historic home in Ohio? Share it below in the comments so I can check it out too!
Saturday 27th of August 2022
I'm happy to see Stan Hywett on the list! I was a docent there for many years, and the 1st to be trained to do a longer tour through the house and grounds. I don't think they are doing those anymore, maybe they didn't catch on. I agree, the nooks and crannies tour is one of the best, especially for anyone that loves the place. The Madrigal dinners were quite something too. I had to stop being a docent when I went back to school, but I loved it. I'll have to get back there.
Sunday 28th of August 2022
What a fun job! Too bad the longer tours didn't catch on, that's something I'd be interested in. I've always loved visiting Stan Hywet so this year I bought a membership so I can visit more frequently and see the property during the changing seasons. It's a great way to spend the afternoon for those that love architecture and/or history. Thanks for sharing!
6 Kids 1 Tank
Wednesday 24th of August 2022
Definitely love this list! I was hoping the basket showed up!
Two other great additions would be the Boat House at Put In Bay and thr Pyramid Hill House at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park!
Love the content! Keep Inspiring!
Thursday 25th of August 2022
You know I HAD to include that basket! I didn't even think of the other two but I've been to each of those too. I'll add them to my list. I even spent the night in the shiphouse! It's incredible. Thanks for the suggestions, Mike!