The iconic neon orange sign that graced the Tee Jaye and Jerry’s Drive-In restaurant on North High Street and Morse Road is one of nine places on Columbus Landmarks’ annual list of Most Endangered Landmarks this year.
The sign received the most nominations from the public this year, said Becky West, executive director of Columbus Landmarks.
“It’s really a touchstone for people who grew up in the neighborhood and for people who are just passing through,” West said.
There’s a nostalgic factor too, she said. “People have a penchant for the boldness of the sign.”
The sign dates from 1961 and was designed by Fred Ervin Neon Sales of Columbus. It’s fate is uncertain due to Tee Jaye closing on April 30th. A trust controlled by a Californian man declined to renew the restaurant’s lease, and documents presented to Columbus construction department mention plans for a Chick Fil-A there.
Another place on the list of endangered areas is three brick buildings on Hawthorne Ave. 1405, 1407, and 1413 south of Ohio State East Hospital, which were part of St. Cyprian Parish, the first Columbus Catholic Church founded in 1912 for the Black Community.
Rita Fuller-Yates, a board member of Columbus Landmarks, grew up near the site and nominated it. She said her mother went to school in St Cyprian in the late 1940s and early 1950s when it was the only Catholic school in Columbus that black children could attend.
Fuller-Yates said the parish of St Cyprian included a church, school, and residence for nuns. According to Columbus Landmarks, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament occupied the schools.
By the 1940s, the Church’s membership had grown to 400. By 1957, St. Cyprian was merged with the parish of St. Dominic.
West said at least two of St. Cyprian’s three former buildings stood empty for a while, though Fuller-Yates said “the quality of the architecture is still intact.”
Ohio State University owns the buildings. OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email that 1413 Hawthorne is fully occupied with medical offices, while 1407 Hawthorne is used for storage and 1405 Hawthorne is vacant.
“The medical center strives to keep the exterior of the buildings in good condition and there are no plans to demolish the buildings,” said Johnson.
“The history of the Ohio State East Hospital campus is an important part of the history of the medical center and will be discussed in new staff orientation sessions,” he said.
The other seven locations on the Columbus Landmark List are:
• The Pythian Temple, 867 Mount Vernon Ave., was part of the King Arts Complex, according to Columbus Landmarks. The building dates back to 1926 and is the only one in Columbus known to be designed by Samuel Plato, a black architect with Evans and Plato from Louisville, Kentucky. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald all played there. It is located in an opportunity zone and is for sale after the King Arts Complex ended its lease in 2019. It is owned by the York Masons Building Association.
• The Federal Savings & Loan Building in Central Ohio, 66 S. 3rd St. Built in 1955, the building has been vacant for years. Capitol Square Ltd. bought it in 2006.
• Kappa Sigma House, 1842 Indianola Ave. The house is on the site of the former Robert Neil mansion. Kappa Sigma bought the house in 1919 and a “refurbishment” renovation was carried out in 1938. In 2020, Kappa Sigma National Fraternity closed the OSU chapter for violating the Brotherhood’s Code of Conduct after the state of Ohio suspended the Brotherhood for violating alcohol and other codes of conduct. The house is currently sublet.
• The original West High School / former Starling Middle School, 120 S. Central Ave. The school was built in 1908 and is now owned by the Woda Cooper Companies, an affordable property developer.
• The former East End Savings Bank, 1017 Mount Vernon Ave. Phillips Pharmacy now owns the former bank building from 1890.
• 878 Mount Vernon Ave. The building dates from 1910 and was used as a grocery store. Columbus Landmarks listed it in 1994 as part of its Lost Treasures Found Architectural Survey of African American Resources on the Near East Side.
• United Methodist Church on Washington Avenue, 359 E. Markison Ave., South Washington Avenue. The Gothic Revival Church in Merion Village was built in 1923 and has been vacant since 2015. A private developer owns them.
According to Columbus Landmarks, 16 buildings have been rescued since the endangerment list was introduced in 2014, five have been partially rescued and 29 remain at risk but are still standing. Six have been lost, including the former Veterans Memorial on West Broad Street, the massive Columbus Castings complex, and the school annex on Clinton Avenue.
The 2021 list was announced at the Columbus Landmarks virtual annual meeting on Thursday.
For more information, see: https://www.columbuslandmarks.org/2021-most-endangered-site/