The Circus House

Historical Masterpiece in the Heart of Victorian Village

Original blueprints by Frank Packard (1894-1895)

A bold Victorian manor in the heart of Columbus

The house was commissioned in the 1890s by the circus owner Peter Sells of Sells Brothers Circus, lending to its whimsical design and history. The house today is a private residence, owned by Jason Henry and Paige Henry, the president of Riegel Financial, a financial services firm celebrating more than 50 years of caring for customers as if they were family.

The Sells Brothers Circus ran from from 1871 to 1895. The circus was based out of Columbus, Ohio in an area that was known as Sellsville in Clinton Township along the Olentangy River near King Avenue. Sellsville was of considerable size, and many animals and staff lived in the area during the off seasons. The circus family brought an undeniable feeling of whimsy and eccentricity to the neighborhood, though no actual animals or circus equipment were housed in the neighborhood.

The house was originally designed by Yost & Packard with influence from the Sells family trip to California in 1891. The dramatic rooflines, curved Moorish style windows, and terracotta-tile roof suggest a similar profile to that of a circus big top. The firm also designed the carriage house, for the Sells family. The house was completed in 1895.

The Sells’ furnished the house with pieces from their travels around the world, creating a lavish and exotic feel to the interior.


Watch a few videos featuring the house below:

The Circus Comes To Town – WOSU PBS »

Columbus Neighborhoods, Driving with Darbee – (Previous Owner) »


Interesting documents and articles:

Circus House Wikipedia »

History of the Sells Circus »

Newspaper article when the house was originally built »

Original blueprints of the house »

Columbus Monthly Homes – October 2010 »

Home Decor – September 2013 »

Columbus Dispatch – July 2020 »

Columbus Dispatch – October 2020 »

Columbus Navigator – October 2020 »

NBC4 – December 2021 »

Columbus Monthly – March 2022 »


Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many myths and rumors surrounding the history of The Circus House, but not everything you hear is true. Here are some important clarifications.

  • There was never a carousel on the third floor. The house, while beautifully constructed, could never support that. The original intention of the third floor was going to be a ballroom. However, that was not finished, and the stairway was cut short rather than extended to the third floor.
  • No servants lived in the carriage house. That would not have even been possible. It stored the horses, carriage and livestock. The only access to the second floor was a ladder and that was a hayloft.
  • There were never wild animals in the neighborhood. They were kept on the other side of the city and a river separated them. Despite rumors of elephants walking the streets, that was never the case. There was a monkey loose once over near the animal enclosures, there never near the house.
  • There are rumors that the basement was built with animals pens – that’s not the case.
  • The lot next to the house was not part of the original property – it was purchased later. The garage and outdoor fireplaces were added in 2010 and the pool was added in 2018.
  • All of the fireplaces in the house have been restored with the exception of the one in Peter Sells original bedroom. The fireplaces have been converted and now function as gas fireplaces.
  • The front face of the entrance to the house had the gothic arches rebuilt. The dormers that were original to the house (believed to have been removed in the 1950’s) were unable to be rebuilt and restored due to the structural integrity of the house.
  • Albeit many rumors over the years, the house is not haunted and the general consensus of the past owners will support that.

The Home Now…

The Home now serves as a private residence. The Henry family lovingly restored the residence to enhance the home’s story with decorative changes that included wallpaper, murals, a gloriously revived staircase, and restored fireplaces throughout.

The renovations were extensive, including both decorative and infrastructural changes. The Henry family replaced the electrical service and wiring, poured concrete for a remaining dirt portion of the basement floor, repaired plumbing and gas lines, replaced its geothermal unit, and added solar panels to the garage roof. There were no infrastructural changes to the house, as the Henrys were very mindful not to do that to keep it accurate and true to its history.

The work was completed in Summer 2022 and the home is now once again restored to a home worthy of its name and history.

The carriage house is used for short term rentals and a meeting location for Riegel Financial.