No one swiped the life-size bison sculpture that stood sentry the past few years in a vacant lot west of Downtown.
“That’s a very valid thing to wonder, though,” said Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade.
The bison lived in a pretty colorful part of town. It wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility for a wily thief or vandal to find a way to remove it from atop the 10-foot pole along West Broad Street, at Souder Avenue.
Alas, the metal sculpture of a wood bison — a subspecies of bison also known as the wood buffalo — lost his home on account of development.
“People are looking at assembling a lot of acreage in that area,” Smith said of planned projects and construction in Franklinton. “I just kind of looked at the writing on the wall.”
The board, which commissioned the 600-pound sculpture, had the bison taken down about two weeks ago, opting not to court attention in case the operation didn’t go smoothly. But the removal went as well as could be expected.
“It’s in a safe place on McKinley Avenue, being cared for and enjoying some rest and relaxation,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, he’s looking for another site in Franklinton where the bison can live happily ever after on display as public art. “There’s a couple of places that we’re thinking about,” he said.
The city also wants to see the bison rise again. “It represents history, and it’s just kind of a cool idea,” said Debbie Briner, a spokeswoman for the Columbus Department of Public Service.
The Franklinton Board of Trade originally worked with Keep Columbus Beautiful on sprucing up the vacant lot where the bison was first hoisted, adding planters and painted flower beds to the site. The sculpture is hollow, so in a nod to the mission of Keep Columbus Beautiful, it was filled with garbage as an artistic reminder not to litter.
Once plentiful in the area, wood bison drew Franklinton founder Lucas Sullivant in the late 18th century as he followed the buffalo trail north from Kentucky, according to the Franklinton Historical Society.
The wood bison — it’s not the same subspecies as the plains bison of Yellowstone fame — is now essentially extinct in the United States, with some remaining wild in northwestern Canada at Wood Buffalo National Park.
Smith still loves the idea of a bison sculpture in Franklinton and thinks it makes a nice historical statement. But ridding it of trash so that it could be transported was a messy job. “I can say for sure we are not going to fill it with trash again,” he said. “That was a meaningful concept that has run its course.”