Chic Harley Memorial Garden Construction Begin
The Chic Harley Memorial Garden will hold its groundbreaking at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 22, 2012, at 687-689 S. Champion Avenue. Columbus city councilman Zach M. Klein, State Rep. Michael Stinziano, Dispatch sports columnist Bob Hunter, Old Oaks resident Stephen Maher and Father Joshua Wagner will speak at the event. Afterwards, Simco construction will begin the excavation and grading of the lot in preparation for walkways and planting.
The garden was created by Old Oaks Civic Association in conjunction with a Neighborhood Partnership Grant from United Way of Central Ohio to honor Harley, a one-time resident of the Old Oaks Historic District. He was Ohio State’s first consensus first team All-American football player and first three-time All-American. The project was designed to stimulate neighborhood revitalization through beautification of a vacant lot.
The site is located within Old Oaks on a lot once occupied by a house where the Harley family lived while Chic attended East High School. The design was created by Lawrence Walquist, Jr., professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture at The Ohio State University. Larry’s father knew Chic and played for Illinois in the last game Chic played at Ohio State in 1919. They both later played pro football for the Decatur Staleys, a team which became the Chicago Bears. The garden sculpture is designed by Joan Wobst, a local artist most famous for her Umbrella Girl sculpture in German Village’s Schiller Park
As part of Columbus’ bicentennial celebration, the focus of the garden is to make people aware of Chic’s importance in football history and the dangers of concussions in sports. Charles W. “Chic” Harley became a football star at East High School in the days of leather helmets. He played so well that while at The Ohio State University in 1916, 1917 and 1919 that crowd sizes increased dramatically, creating the need for a new stadium. As a result, Ohio Stadium opened on the banks of the Olentangy River in 1922, a 63,000 concrete edifice that has been called “the house that Harley built.” It seats over 100,000 today.
Harley’s story has a sad twist to it, though. After playing pro football for one year, Chic was diagnosed with Dementia praecox, a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder which can be attributed to brain damage from concussions. He lived most of the last 36 years of his life in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Danville, Ill.
Currently legislation is being passed in the Ohio house to educate families and teachers of high school athletes about the dangers of concussions and how they should be treated. The garden is creating a fund where part of future donations it receives will go to help Dr. Thomas Pommering of Nationwide Chidren’s Hospital Sports Medicine continue his concussion research.
Formal dedication of the Harley garden is tentatively planned for September 15, 2012, the anniversary of Chic’s birthday. Donations can be made via paypal at www.chicharleygarden.org