Topiary Park is unquestionably the spot for you whether you enjoy impressionist painting, horticulture, gardening, a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or just landscape architecture. The classic picture Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat is faithfully recreated in the seven-acre Topiary Park, which is situated in the heart of Columbus.
James T. Mason, a sculptor from Columbus, came up with this unusual project when his then-wife Elaine requested that he create a topiary sculpture for their backyard. The couple presented the idea to the city of Columbus when it eventually grew much larger than a backyard project. Construction on the display started in 1989 with the construction of fake hills and a pond to represent the River Seine. Elaine was the original topiarist, while James sculpted the bronze frames and planted the accompanying foliage.
The Ohio School for the Deaf, one of only five such institutions in the United States at the time it was formed in the 19th century, had previously called the location chosen for the park home. By 1953, the school had outgrown its cramped downtown home and had moved to a larger property in the city’s North Side due to its rapid growth. The original structures were still standing decades later, though they were abandoned and in a state of disrepair due to the neighboring neighborhood’s decades-long decline.
A suspected fire in 1981 destroyed all but one of the school buildings, which was eventually recognized as a historic site in 1982. During the community rebirth of the late 1970s, efforts were made to preserve and landmark the school buildings. The remaining portion of the recently abandoned land was transformed into a park, which is now still formally called Old Deaf School Park but is more often referred to as Topiary Park.
A topiary sculpture made of yew trees, the artwork features 54 humans, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat. It was formally dedicated in 1992. Visitors can either stroll among the living sculptures and join them in their picnicking, sunbathing, and general contemplation, or they can see this unique garden from a bronze plaque that indicates the viewpoint of the original painting. Quite precisely and unexpectedly, Topiary Park is the only painting-inspired topiary in existence.
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