Growing up in Columbus, no two buildings evoked history quite so much as the LeVeque Tower (the gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper along the waterfront) and the Ohio Theater (whose preservation from the wrecking ball was a local success story). I thought I’d spend with these glorious buildings in the next two days. First up:
The LeVeque Tower
Growing up, the LeVeque-Lincoln Tower (as it was known in my first decade) was the iconic symbol of Columbus. No wonder–until the construction of the Rhodes office tower across the street, it was Columbus’ only tall skyscraper. I remember seeing it every week on the weekly Bulletin from my father’s downtown Sertoma service club meetings, and coming into Downtown from the West Side, it rose up in the centre of our gaze. It also served a second purpose as a radio tower, and several stations broadcast from transmitters on its top.
Construction of the tower by the American Insurance Union (AIU) began in 1924 and was completed in 1927. Initially known as the AIU Citadel, the building ran significantly over budget; the AIU failed during the Great Depression and the building, which had never been completely filled or paid for, was termed the IOU Tower as the failed company attempted to use this asset to pay its debts. It was eventually purchased by two investors, Lesley LeVeque and John Lincoln, and in 1945 was renamed the LeVeque-Lincoln Tower. In 1977, it became the LeVeque tower when the daughter of Lesley LeVeque inherited it, and it has retained that name to this day.
The Wikipedia entry describes its style as Art Moderne, but I disagree with that assessment. Art Moderne is also known as Streamline Moderne, and this building is definitely not in that style, which is more associated with the 1930s and polished steel and glass exteriors. The Skyscraper Center listing for the building is likewise under the impression that the building is made of steel; this is deceptive as the building is clad in cream-coloured terra cotta.
Per the Wikipedia entry: “(…) the building took inspiration from Byzantine architecture, particularly religious buildings constructed in the 4th through 13th centuries. Initially, Crane (the architect) considered stone to construct the building but later decided on cream-colored terracotta despite concerns its blocks would be small and prone to warping. It featured a large number of figures situated 495 feet (151 m) and higher along the building facade and around its pinnacle, including eagles with wingspans up to 22 feet (6.7 m), giants and angels up to 26 feet (7.9 m). Some of these were later removed after concerns about falling materials and to obtain unobstructed penthouse views. An octagonal bartizan was designed at the top of the building with long, narrow loop windows, and it was topped by a dome with heraldic imagery.”
When constructed, it was the fifth tallest building in the world and the tallest in the US outside of Manhattan.
The gorgeous part of the exterior of this building is the octagonal cap area, where gargoyles help evoke the idea of a citadel of commerce. Inside is a gorgeous penthouse apartment. As in the photo above, the building is now usually lit up at night, often in gorgeous colours.
The tower has been recently renovated and features a boutique hotel, condos, office space, and event space. The adjacent Palace Theater (originally a movie theater and part of the original complex) was restored a number of years ago.
The LeVeque Tower was certainly formative for me as far as a concept of what constituted a beautiful skyscraper. You can probably blame my love for Art Deco firmly on it.
Some nifty links:
News story from 2016 towards the end of restoration
Past and Present photo view
Emporis entry for the LeVeque Tower
Link to the hotel now occupying the tower. Must stay there in the future!