State Auto’s life-size Nativity scene  is awe-inspiring in its beauty, simplicity

When I first moved to Columbus in the late ’80s, one of my top holiday joys was touring the Christmas displays in the downtown area. A favorite stop was the Nativity scene located at the State Auto Insurance Co., 518 E. Broad St.

The life-size figures depicting the happenings at the time of Jesus’ birth always drew a crowd. People gazed quietly as if witnessing firsthand the holy event that took place so long ago on a quiet night in Bethlehem.

At the time the figures were located on an elevated platform in front of the State Auto building. Last year they were moved to a park adjacent to the insurance company at the corners of E. Broad and N. 11th streets.

It’s also when I introduced the magical display to my young children.

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The State Auto Nativity display is free to browse about and contains 80 figures of people and animals constructed of plaster. They’re each realistically painted, some with unique handcrafted features such as strips of leather simulating hair on a shepherd boy’s head, and frayed rope as the fur on sheep. The hay atop the manger is made of hula skirts.

The figures are assembled in various scenes beginning with one depicting the angel Gabriel informing the Virgin Mary that she’ll be blessed with a son who shall be named Jesus. The labeled scenes also include the Three Wise Men arriving on noble camels bearing gifts for the newborn king. The final scene is of Mary and Joseph in the stable beside an empty manger. The figure of baby Jesus will be placed in the manger at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Visitors can take a cell-phone tour or learn about the display through State Auto employees and retirees serving as tour guides.

Local choirs perform throughout the season, with most occurring at 7 p.m. on weekends. A schedule is posted near the display. That’s also where you can pick up a pamphlet that details State Auto’s history of displaying dramatic Christmas scenes since the 1930s.

The Nativity display is open through New Year’s Day.

You can examine the figures in daylight, but they’re at their most dramatic under lighting after the sun goes down. The display is lit daily from 6-8 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to around midnight. The display then remains lit until 8 a.m. on Christmas Day.

Parking is available in State Auto parking lot at the southeast corner of Broad and Washington streets

For more information, visit

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