In Rome’s Capitoline Museum are preserved portions of the Colossus of Constantine, a marble statue of the emperor who ruled over the Roman Empire in the beginning of the 4th century CE. The head of the statue, which depicts Constantine’s “Sacred Countenance” gazing over his earthly domain, measures nearly 8 feet tall. A bit closer to home, a six-foot tall face carved in a similar abstract style looks across the Scioto River valley in Columbus, Ohio. The six-foot tall face of the Columbus “Constantine,” made of terra cotta, is one example of the ornament that adorns the facades of the LeVeque Tower and adds to the character to the monumental building.
When standing on the ground looking up, the LeVeque Tower looks big. When face-to-face with the two-story tall winged-figures at the corners of the building, one quickly realizes the building is BIG. Although the building has Art Deco touches, mainly in its interior, classical references are the dominant ornament on the exterior. These include rondelles with helmeted figures in profile and the date of 1925 in Roman numerals, and fasces with double-bladed axes at the corner octagonal turrets. Amazingly, even larger ornamental pieces have been removed from the building. The 26-foot tall statuary groups at the 39th floor on the four sides of the building, each depicting a man embracing children, and eagles perched at the 34th floor at each corner are no longer in place. The ornamental terra cotta was created by Chicago sculptor Fritz Albert, the chief modeler of the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company.
Vertical Access technicians had the opportunity to see some of these faces of the LeVeque Tower up close when we inspected the exterior masonry of the building during the first week of April, 2012. VA’s investigation is part of the restoration of the building that has been a landmark on the Columbus skyline since it was completed in 1927. Designed by the noted theater architect C. Howard Crane, the 48-story LeVeque Tower rises over 555 feet into the air, taller than the Washington Monument and the tallest building between New York and Chicago when it was constructed for the American Insurance Union.
After the American Insurance Union went bankrupt, the “AIU Citadel” was purchased by John Lincoln and Leslie LeVeque in 1945 and became known as the Lincoln-LeVeque Tower. After 1977, the building was officially renamed the LeVeque Tower, with the LeVeque family retaining ownership until 2004. Between 2004 and 2011, the building changed hands multiple times. In 2011, the building was acquired by an investment group led by Robert Meyers of Tower 10 LLC, who is leading the effort to restore the landmark structure. Columbus design firm Schooley Caldwell Associates, Turner Construction Company, Chicago-based Berglund Construction are the principal parties involved with the restoration.