City Quotient: The Main Library's Lost Boy Fountain

Jeff Darbee
Sources: “German Columbus,” Arcadia Publishing; The Columbus Dispatch, May 18, 2012; Greater Columbus Arts Council, “Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Central Ohio;” National Register of Historic Places nomination forms for Schlee brewery complex and Schlee bottling works; Benjamin D. Rickey & Co., “Historical Analysis of the Main Library,” 1987.

The Peter Pan fountain in front of the Main Library is dedicated to someone named George Peabody Munson. Who was he?

George was a 6-year-old boy who died on April 8, 1884, possibly of rheumatic fever, measles, typhoid or any of a number of other diseases that advances in medical care have largely conquered. The boy’s father, Charles Munson, was a successful businessman, head of the Columbus Pharmacal Co. and a figure in local banking. He also helped organize the city’s YMCA and was involved in other public-spirited undertakings.

Charles was a widower and had only a few months to live—he died of heart disease—when he worked with city librarian John Pugh to commission the fountain in George’s memory, the final act of a father still grieving for his son after more than 40 years. Pugh announced the plans for the fountain the day after Charles Munson died, and it was dedicated on May 18, 1928, with 700 children in attendance. It was the work of Mae (Mary Elizabeth) Cook, who was also known for her work in sculpting facial reconstruction models for soldiers disfigured in World War I. The son of one of Mae’s friends, 10-year-old Richard Pfeiffer, the father of the retired Columbus city attorney, was a model for the statue, although, as he recalled later, the only part he posed for was the “legs and hind end.”

Peter Pan, the creation of British author James M. Barrie, was, of course, the boy who never grew up, just as George did not. But George lives on in the bronze Peter, playing his flute as spouting fish below him celebrate water—the giver of life.

I know there are several historic buildings in the Brewery District along South Front Street, but who were the brewers and what buildings did they own?

The old German brewing district had the city’s greatest concentration of breweries from the mid-19th century to the early 20th, along both sides of South Front Street from Livingston Avenue to Sycamore Street. The largest, Louis Hoster’s brewery, was farthest north. Part of it is known today as the Wasserstrom property, at the southwest corner of Livingston and Front. Other Hoster buildings are to the west and are used as offices. Across Front from the former brewery is the long, narrow Hoster bottling plant. The ornate Hoster stable, where beer wagon horses were kept, is at the northwest corner of Front and Liberty (Shadowbox Live is there today).

Three of Nicholas Schlee’s brewery buildings are along the east side of Front. The Schlee Malt House, which has a cameo of Schlee above a former doorway, and the Schlee Bavarian Brewery are both in residential use today, while the Schlee stable (now offices) is behind the Malt House. Opposite the Bavarian Brewery is Conrad Born’s house, the Germania Club today. Two more Born buildings are south of that: his brewery and his stable. Meanwhile, Born’s bottling works, once home to the Hercules Trouser Co. and the Salvation Army (now apartments), is at the southeast corner of Front and Beck. August Wagner’s brewery was the last built (1906), at the northwest corner of Front and Sycamore. It operated until 1974 and was then demolished. The statue of King Gambrinus (the patron saint of beer) that graced its façade is mounted in a wall farther north on Front.


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