“Little Betsy” Visits 100 South Third Street to See Some Paintings

“Down Town,” a painting by Robert Chadeayne from the collection of the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, was the work that was chosen to promote the Riffe Gallery’s exhibition, “100 Years of Art: Celebrating Columbus’ Legacy.”

When I saw the familiar artistic style of this local artist on display in the gallery, I remembered those brightly colored paintings of rooftop scenes and local neighborhoods that were such a part of the 14 years I spent working at the law firm of Bricker & Eckler LLP. 

Located in the historic United States Courthouse and Post Office, on the southeast corner of State and Third Streets, Bricker & Eckler is one of my most-admired downtown Columbus landmarks. The site for the building was purchased in 1882, the cornerstone was laid in 1884, and the building was completed in 1887. President William Howard Taft attended the building’s rededication in 1912, after completion of an addition that more than doubled its size. As newer United States post offices and courthouses were built, the building became less important, and it started to deteriorate. Bricker & Eckler was determined to save the building and restore it to its original grandeur. The city of Columbus purchased the building from the U.S. General Services Administration in 1985 and leased it to the firm. Restoration was completed in 1986. Former President Gerald Ford, John Galbreath and Woody Hayes attended the gala that was held to commemorate this new chapter of the building’s history.  Ever since, 100 South Third Street has been Bricker & Eckler’s home.

For an 18-year-old history major home from college during the summer of 1988, the idea of working in a building that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places was irresistible. I continued working there not only during each of my college vacations, then kept a part-time schedule there during my graduate program in journalism at Ohio State. After assisting the firm’s practice development coordinator, I managed and later directed the firm’s public relations activities until I left the firm in July 2002 to become a librarian. In many ways, the loyal worker nicknamed “Little Betsy” grew up at Bricker & Eckler.

Just about every room in the Old, Old Post Office provides fine views of the Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square, but I think one of the best spots in the building is Conference Room 3NW. That’s because it’s decorated by five paintings by Robert Chadeayne. Three more Chadeayne paintings line the wall of the foyer that leads to the room. I’ll admit, looking at the paintings — especially the one of a lady reading a book, sitting on a bench under a tree — led to a little daydreaming while attending meetings in that room. 

Chadeayne (1897-1981) was a painter from Columbus who was best known for his colorful landscapes. He studied at Colgate University, then continued his education in New York City with George Luks and John French Sloan, colleagues of George Bellows who were members of the Ashcan School, a group of American realist painters in the early 1900s who painted scenes from daily life in New York slums.

Chadeayne taught life painting and drawing at the Columbus College of Art and Design. He also held leadership positions in the Columbus Art League and the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. As his biographical entry in Ohio Art and Artists states, he used amazing color choices, had a penchant for the Hudson River and a zest for catching the beauties of nature.

A recipient of the IBM Medal for his contributions to the world of art, Chadeayne lived in a house on Riverside Drive in Dublin that overlooked the Scioto River. He used a small cottage on the property as his studio. In the summers, he painted in his studio at Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.

Chadeayne’s son, William R. Chadeayne (1929-1987), was a partner of Bricker & Eckler who joined the firm in the mid-1960s to practice bond law. The younger Chadeayne graduated from Worthington High School in 1946, and earned his undergraduate degree from Kenyon College in 1950. He received his law degree from Harvard University and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kenyon in 1982. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1957.

After his parents died, Mr. Chadeayne and his wife lived in his parents’ home. He also shared his father’s artistic talents with his Bricker & Eckler colleagues. Several of Robert Chadeayne’s paintings hang in Bricker & Eckler’s hallways, conference rooms and offices.

Seeing “100 Years of Art: Celebrating Columbus’ Legacy” rekindled my interest in Robert Chadeayne’s work, so I asked my friends at Bricker & Eckler whether I could come over to see his paintings again. Melissa Wolfe, curator of American Art at the Columbus Museum of Art who also curated the Riffe Gallery exhibition, joined me for my visit to the firm today.

As Melissa and I admired the paintings, she pointed out how perfectly the frames complemented Chadeayne’s artwork. Speculating that the simple, roughly constructed frames were original to the paintings, Melissa pointed out that they were a popular choice during the 1940s and 1950s, when artists “scruffed up” frames to give them a “working-class feel.” She also mentioned that some with a red cast were known as “red bowl” frames, where red paint was applied first, then topped with a natural color and distressed.

Since the paintings are not labeled, and many are undated, I’m not able to share their titles or creation dates. But it was fascinating to see another version of “Down Town,” the painting included in the Riffe Gallery exhibition, pick out subtle differences, and speculate what the actual location of the painting was. I had also forgotten about the Chadeayne portrait that captured a portion of the Old, Old Post Office. It was gratifying to see these paintings again, after almost 10 years.

Visiting Bricker & Eckler also provided me with the opportunity to admire another favorite work of art: the watercolor that local artist Leland Shank McClelland painted of the Old, Old Post Office. McClelland (1914-1987) graduated from East High School and attended Ohio State University, but graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to creating “Cartoon Parade,” a full-page cartoon that ran in the Columbus Citizen on Sundays, McClelland taught at the Columbus College of Art and Design and was Director of Fine Arts at the Ohio State Fair. McClelland’s paintings are in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art and Capital University’s Schumacher Gallery.

Tina, the firm’s dedicated, longtime receptionist, also reminded me of another local artist whose paintings can also be seen at the firm. Harriet Torrey Evatt was a noted artist and author of children’s books, short stories and poems. Her husband, Bill, was a bond lawyer who also worked for John Bricker, the firm’s founder, when he was Attorney General. When Bricker was governor of Ohio, he appointed Mr. Evatt to be state tax commissioner. Mr. Evatt established a bond law practice at the firm, when it was known as Bricker, Marburger, Evatt and Barton. Mrs. Evatt’s painting of her husband won the Columbus Art League’s 1947 prize for best portrait.

According to Columbus Dispatch articles I found about Mrs. Evatt, she was born in 1895, was the daughter of mural painter John McCullough Torrey and was a native of Delaware. She and her husband lived at 74 East Kanawha Avenue in Worthington, a home reportedly filled with her paintings, antiques, a Persian cat named Gatita, and later, a Siamese cat named Tiku.

A former press agent for the Hartman Theater, Mrs. Evatt began writing poems, serials and short stories for a Chicago magazine called “Children’s Activities.” She specialized in writing and illustrating mystery stories for teenagers, as well as in tales of Indians in the Lake Timagami region of Ontario, Canada, where she and her husband owned a hunting lodge. Her first book was The Red Canoe (1940). Other titles included The Whispering Willow, The Secret of the Ruby Locket, The Secret of the Singing Tower, and An Army in Pigtails (1962), based on the story of two lighthouse-keeper’s daughters who helped to keep the British troops away during the War of 1812. In 1946, Mrs. Evatt won the Ohioana Library Award for her children’s novel, The Snow Owl’s Secret. She died on November 24, 1983 and is buried at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Worthington.

If you’d like to see more of Robert Chadeayne’s work, you can also find two more of his paintings at the Ohio Judicial Center. “Barnyard” (1931) is in the Justices’ South Conference Room on the 9th floor. “Winter Wash” (1921) can be seen in the Office of Bar Admissions on the 5th floor. Both are on loan from the Columbus Museum of Art.

This entry was posted in Art, Books, Columbus, History, Museums. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Little Betsy” Visits 100 South Third Street to See Some Paintings

  1. Judy Prendeville says:

    I am the current owner of the Evatt house on E. Kanawha Ave. What a delight to read this piece on the history of several local artists, including Harriet. I once inquired about Evatt paintings at the Bricker & Eckler law office, but no one was able to locate any. I am told that there is one of the Kanawha house…would certainly love to see it someday if it exists.

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