By Olivia Dieker
The Topiary Park is located at 480 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215. Before this park existed, these seven acres were the site of the Ohio Deaf School which was established in 1829. The Ohio Deaf School grew into multiple buildings and had to change its location in 1953. In 1982, this area was proclaimed a historic district. However, not long before this all except but one of the Ohio Deaf School buildings were destroyed in a fire. The remaining building was restored. At this time it was also decided that this area would be used as a public park called Old Deaf School Park. In 1987, Jim Barney, former director of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department was searching for unique ideas to celebrate the 1992 Quincentenary and Ameriflora. James T Mason an artist and an alumni of Columbus College of Art and Design came up with an idea for a topiary garden based on the Post- Impressionist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte” by George Seurat. He pitched this idea to his wife, Elaine, who worked alongside Jim Barney at the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. Together they pitched his idea to Jim Barney in 1987. In 1988, they started creating the garden. In 1991 the Friends of the Topiary Park foundation was founded. In 1992 the park opened to the public. Currently, this is the only topiary park in existence that is based on a painting.
However, this park has not stayed completely the same. In 1998, the park received a gatehouse. This chateau style gatehouse is used to balance out the last building left from the Ohio Deaf School. It now is used as a Visitor’s center complete with a gift shop and restrooms.
Mason is a sculptor who often works with cast bronze, welded steel, wood and stone. He created the bronze skeletons for each topiary out of ⅝ inch bronze which were set in eighteen inches of concrete. Mason also helped plant some of the shrubs. His wife
To create the desired effect, the tallest topiary in the park is 12 feet tall. The topiaries decrease in size as they go farther back in the picture. This exaggerated perspective is done to create depth, and make the park look more like the actual painting. In the park there are 80 topiaries, including 54 people, 8 boats, 3 dogs, 1 monkey, and 1 cat.
This park has fairly diverse species and plants. The pond in the park has fish, ducks as well as water lilies. There are also about 220 different types of trees. There is a tree guide available online that can be used to recognize about 30 of the different trees. The topiaries in the garden are made up of yew or taxus plants. These are each tied and trimmed every June by Friends of Topiary Park.
As you walk through the garden, you can view the topiaries from the artist’s point of view while standing on the eastern-most hill of the park. There is also a bronze plaque there with an image of the painting for comparison.
“About the Park.” Topiary Park. Friends of the Topiary Park, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://www.topiarypark.org/the-park.html>.
Betti, Tom. Columbus Neighborhoods:: A Guide to the Landmarks of Franklinton, German Village, King-Lincoln, Olde Town East, Short North and the University District. Charleston: History, 2013. Print.
Self Guided Tour. Topiary Park. Friends of the Topiary Park, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://www.topiarypark.org/uploads/2/5/3/4/25342118/self-guided-tour.pdf>.
Topiary Park. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://www.topiarypark.org/uploads/2/5/3/4/25342118/voaac.mp3>.
Tree Walk. Topiary Park. Friends of the Topiary Park, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://www.topiarypark.org/uploads/2/5/3/4/25342118/treewalk.pdf>.