City Quotient: Columbus Architect George Bellows

Jeff Darbee

The artist George Bellows is well-known as a Columbus native, but wasn't his father also an artist? Yes and yes—sort of. While George Bellows may be Ohio's greatest native artist, his father's art was architecture, with a canvas of brick, mortar and steel. Born on Long Island in 1829, the senior Bellows headed to California in 1849 to join the gold rush. En route, he stopped in Columbus and never left. (Our city has that effect on people.)

He became both an architect and a building contractor responsible for such major buildings as the 1887 Franklin County Courthouse (Bellows built it; George Maetzel was the architect), which stood where Dorrian Commons Park is now, at the corner of Mound and High streets. He also built the 1868 main building of the Ohio School for the Deaf, which stood at the north side of today's Topiary Park on East Town Street, but fell victim to arson in 1981. Other projects included the Bellows Avenue School on the West Side and First AME Zion Church at 873 Bryden Road.

George Wesley Bellows was born in 1882 and the only son of the elder Bellows and his wife Anna. He made his mark after moving to New York City in 1904. Now his paintings are among the most valuable of all American artists and include the sale of a 1910 work titled “Polo Crowd” to Bill Gates for $27.5 million in 1999. The younger Bellows died of appendicitis in 1925. Senior died in 1913 and is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery; his son is in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

I've noticed that a few surface parking lots Downtown have sprouted some unusual kiosks. Where did they come from? There are three lots, in all, where specially designed installations aim to add some color and playfulness to ugly, but for now necessary, urban elements. Just east of the Westin Great Southern Hotel on Main Street is an attendant booth called “Coney Island,” designed by Blostein/Overly Architects. Does it invoke a roller coaster? Some other whimsical thing? You decide. Then on the west side of North Third Street, below Spring, is “Microtower,” a shipping container set on end and intended to resemble a skyscraper, the work of Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design. It's red, really red. Then go over to the northeast corner of Main and South Fourth streets, where you'll find a cluster of thick steel rebar rods standing vertically and seemingly painted randomly in blue and green. But if you stand in the right place (it's intended to be seen from eastbound cars on Main), the blue actually spells out “PARK.” Appropriately, its title is “PARKlot.” Set within the piece are some stainless steel “leaning racks” where tired pedestrians can stop for a rest. Design Group Architects + Planners did this one. All were paid for from a variety of public and private sources and are considered permanent public art installations.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.

Sources: This Week Community News; online entries; Cleve Ricksecker, Capital Crossroads/Discovery SIDs; Malcolm Cochran, sculptor;Columbus Dispatch