Columbus, OH: Cornucopia of History
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Recently, Forbes magazine cited Columbus, Ohio as an ideal place for retirees to live. I can understand the appeal of this city of about 1.7 million people, not the least of which is its intriguing historical sites, which I recently visited.
The attraction that most amazed me is The Topiary Park located downtown and shown in the photo at left. This is the only existing topiary park based on a work of art, namely, Georges Seurat's Post-Impressionist 1886 painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte.
The seven-acre park, very clean and green, is a landscape of a painting of a landscape. Dozens of yews have been transformed into sculptures of 54 people, as well as boats, dogs, a monkey and a cat, so that I was surveying a living, growing canvas.
The topiary figures resemble the people in Seurat's painting and they overlook a lily- and fish-filled pond emulating the River Seine in Paris. Perennials, annuals and hanging baskets abound. The admission-free park is serene, beautiful and truly unique.
Many parts of Ohio had underground railroads from which runaway slaves sought refuge. The Kelton House Museum & Garden, in the East Town Street Historic District, was built in 1852 by a transplanted Vermont merchant, Fernando Cortez Kelton and his wife, Sophia. Their house was part of that underground railroad.
Reflecting Greek Revival and Italianate influences, the house is filled with original furniture and accessories owned by the Keltons. This includes hand-painted fans, needlework and jewelry. The museum presents re-enactments of Underground Railroad stories about fugitive slaves. A costumed docent reveals that one runaway, Martha Hartway, remained with the Keltons and married their cabinetmaker.
The neighborhood of German Village, settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, merits long and leisurely exploration for its lovely garden-parks, architecturally significant homes and charming shops. The centerpiece of the Village's Schiller Park is a sculpture of a girl with an umbrella that shields her from the fountain waters.
At Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, the graves of 2,200 Confederate soldiers (prisoners of war) overlook a large stone arch crowned with a bronze statue of a Confederate private. The city boasts some impressively restored theaters like the Southern Theater, built in 1896. Al Jolson, Sarah Bernhardt and the Barrymores once appeared on its stage.
A big attraction is the Greek Revival-Italianate home of former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft. Here, I learned much about the life and career of our most rotund president, the first U. S. President to be buried at Arlington. Columbus was named for explorer Christopher Columbus. If he were to explore his namesake city, he would be pleased by all there is to discover.
- Roberta Sandler is an award-winning writer/author. Her newest book is A Brief Guide to Florida's Monuments and Memorials, published by University Press of Florida. She and her husband live in Wellington, FL.
posted at 06:33:54 PM