They tell the tale of a Native American boy.
What are those fanciful sculptures on the east side of the Scioto River north of the Broad Street Bridge? There's a dog, an owl, a unicorn, and some other creatures. Do they tell a story? They do. In 1992, sculptor Jack Greaves completed those pieces for the James W. Barney Pickaweekee Story Grove in Battelle Riverfront Park. Originally located opposite the west end of Gay Street in a dense stand of trees, it featured a fountain, waterfall, meandering stream and six creature figures: “Hound,” “Owl,” “Eagle,” “Lion,” “Unicorn,” and “Griffin.” They were created to illustrate the tale “Pickaweekee, A Myth of Discovery,” by S. J. Seaburn.
The Builders Exchange of Central Ohio, along with private funders, donated the entire work as a children's park to celebrate the Exchange's centennial. The trees represented an enchanted forest, and in the myth the animals showed Pickaweekee, a Native American boy, the way to knowledge, understanding and strength. A seventh character, “Tree” (represented by the grove of trees), helped the boy at the end of his quest.
Named in honor of Jim Barney, a longtime director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, the sculptures (excluding the grove and water features) were relocated in 2015 to a sloping lawn just to the north. Nearby plaques tell the story of Pickaweekee, who, according to Seaburn, was named for the native village known as the home of “The People Who Arose from Ashes,” probably Pickawillany in western Ohio. Though the original grove and stream are gone, a seventh character, “Tree,” (a young but real tree) is off to one side, and the Scioto River is a good stand-in for the stream, making the story complete again.
As you drive up North Fourth Street, at First Avenue there's a building with the name “Jeffrey” on it. Who's Jeffrey and why is he (or she) important? That U-shaped building, built between 1910 and 1920, was the headquarters of the Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. With railroads spreading rapidly after the Civil War, coal mines were opening in Ohio and elsewhere as the country industrialized. In 1876 Columbus banker Joseph Jeffrey and partners began development of machinery to meet demand for faster and better mining methods. It took some time, but they eventually produced a workable machine, first powered by compressed air and later by electricity. Other products included coal loaders and a line of electric locomotives for underground train-hauling. Jeffrey bought out the partners in 1887 and formed the Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. Its plant was located near the east end of First Avenue, east of North Fourth Street. Over time the company's footprint would spread until it filled almost the entire area east of Fourth between First Avenue and where I-670 passes by today. Properties south of First Avenue are gone now, having shut down after the 1974 sale of the operation to Dresser Industries. It gave rise to the Jeffrey Place project (now called Jeffrey Park). The original office building houses condos today, and the State Library of Ohio occupies another Jeffrey factory building just to the east. The Jeffrey family found that they liked Bexley, where two descendants' homes became the city's community center and the Ohio Governor's Mansion.
Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to email@example.com, and the answer might appear in a future column.
Sources: Site visit; Nancy Colvin, communications and marketing specialist, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department; Jeffrey Co. website; Baist's real estate atlases at Columbus Metropolitan Library; Jeffrey Place development information; “Architecture: Columbus”