Earlier in 28 in 28, we talked about the skyline of Columbus as a symbol of the city. I wrote that while the skyline has become popular to use in logos and ad design, the skyline in silhouette leaves me feeling a little empty, like the soul of the city, or something alive is missing. I also argued that without a singular internationally (or nationally, for that matter) recognizable skyscraper, our city's skyline just doesn't function as a symbol on a scale beyond local theme. It works for an important local government organization like the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, but does it work for a soccer team that should strive to compete globally? It's an important question to ask when considering the Columbus skyline in the Crew's redesign.
If Columbus ever had a nationally recognizable skyscraper, it was the American Insurance Union Citadel—known today as the LeVeque Tower. In part 22 of 28 in 28, I mentioned the historical importance of the LeVeque Tower. It's not the tallest building in the skyline anymore, and certainly not the newest; but its story and stature far surpass the other skyscrapers in our skyline. In the video posted above from The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus historian and executive director of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, Ed Lentz, tells the remarkable origin story of the AIU Citadel/LeVeque Tower. Also in that video, architect Robert D. Loversidge of Schooley Caldwell Associates explains the current renovation of the LeVeque Tower and the vision for the building going forward.
In brief, the LeVeque Tower was originally called the American Insurance Union Citadel. The American Insurance Union named the building "Citadel" rather than "Tower" or "Building," and I think that is significant. It says something about the socially progressive ideals of John Jacob Lentz, the founder of the AIU, and about his respect and honor for the common good and the public trust that the people of Columbus and Ohio valued so sacredly in the early 20th century—something that I talked about in part 21 of this series, Centennial Crest, 1912.
The construction cost of the AIU Citadel was $8 million. Considering that Columbus Crew Stadium cost $28.5 million to construct in 1999, $8 million for a skyscraper sounds like an incredible bargain. But adjusting 1924 dollars to 2014 dollars, the cost today for the AIU Citadel would be more than $110 million. Now you can imagine what an enormous amount of money $8 million was in 1924, particularly when the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression lay only 5 years ahead.
I know that I've said it about 20 times already, but the story of the AIU Citadel is remarkable. In 2011, filmmaker Seth A. Moherman made a fantastic documentary about the history of the building called The Citadel. Thankfully, it is available for us to watch on his Vimeo channel. It's a little more than an hour long, and you should really watch it. It will knock your socks off. I also highly recommend reading Mark J. Lucas' excellent story in 614 Magazine about the AIU Citadel that I linked to in part 5 of 28 in 28.
For this design, I chose to highlight the idea of the "Citadel" as bastion of civic pride, rather than symbol of corporate wealth. The insignia and framing elements are meant to concur with the LeVeque Tower's Art Deco symmetry. Along the side are the iconic light standards of Crew Stadium, and at its base are the bare bones shapes of its girders. Columbus Crew Stadium is sacred civic and national ground. Combined with the ornate Art Deco style of the AIU Citadel/LeVeque Tower, the two buildings reflect our civic pride, and fits with the everything old is new fashion of our nostalgic age. We must press for progress while we carry the traditional themes of the Columbus Crew forward.
I mentioned earlier in this essay how the population of Columbus was a hub of progressive social values and civic interest in the late 19th and early 20th century, and held sacred the humble, honest hard work and worth of the common citizen, the importance of the commonwealth, and the value of the public trust. I think it's important that we remember that when we go forward as Ohioans, but also as supporters of our local soccer team.
Anthony Precourt has done and said so many great things in his brief time as the owner of the Columbus Crew, but nothing has been more important that what he said on the very first day of his stewardship of our team.
"This club, and any sports franchise for that matter, should be a sacred community asset. That's how we're going to treat the Crew."
In that statement are the echoes of our forebears John J. Lentz and Washington Gladden, the man who has been called "The First Citizen of Columbus." Anthony Precourt's words and values make me hopeful for our soccer team, and for our city, too.
One more thing. Recently, the Columbus Crew have been promoting Columbus Crew Stadium as a fortress...
I must respectfully disagree.
It's a Citadel.