Monday, August 18, 2008

A homegrown post...

When we die, let's donate our land to the city with the hopes that they turn it in to a field of cement corn. Think of it, Eulalia...cement corn as far as the eye can see!

Flickr user jfsl3.

I'm not sure that that's exactly what Sam and Eulalia Frantz envisioned for their land before passing from this life to the next. Actually, I'm sure nobody envisions such an image. Regardless, that was the fitting tribute they gave this corn farmer and his wife.

Sam Frantz had/has a rich farm history in Dublin, OH. He is most well known for his corn hybridization techniques, most notably from the 1930's to the 1960's. And from my perspective, as a child, Frantz road really was the heart of Dublin. Aside from the upper-echelon houses and neatly-cropped golf courses, there wasn't much in the area but expansive farmland and soccer fields, all of which stretched along the perimeter of Frantz Road.

Today, however, farm titles have been bought Sam Walton-style in favor of track housing, "upgrade-available" condos, and malls, malls, malls - I can even remember (a number of years ago) one of our independent papers running a contest to come up with a new city motto, and a jaded reader submitted the wonderful, "Columbus: Malltastic!"

Such is the feeling for a good portion of Columbus development, including but not limited to, the outskirts of Dublin in the mid-1990's. Many other areas, such as Hilliard, Gahanna and Westerville experienced the same sort of development. Some fared the storm, while others folded in favor of the next housing development or mall expansion.

The Field of Corn
Also known as Cornhenge, the Field of Corn with Osage Orange Trees was conceived by artist Malcolm Cochran, and commissioned by the Dublin Arts Council in 1994. The site sits in a large grass field adjacent to Nationwide Insurance. Around the time of completion, 1,500 employees had relocated from Nationwide's downtown office in Columbus to the Dublin suburb - a trend omnipresent with the Central Ohio business model of that time. In fact, many other companies did the same, opting instead for the bright lights of the highway outer belt, over the parking-choked commute nightmare that was/is downtown Columbus.

Given the influx of residents to the suburbs, the decision was an easy one for most executives, even if it meant driving the city to one of the highest downtown vacancy rates in the nation, a trend that reached its worst from 00-02.

Now, however, with the development of the Arena District and surrounding areas --in addition to 10-year tax abatement programs for housing and other businesses-- Columbus is seeing a reurbanization of sorts.

So why the corn fields for a post?

Well, I've lived in Central Ohio for 80% of my life and never really explored some of the established attractions. As a result, Malcolm Cochran's cornfields caught my eye (or recaught, for that matter) because I've seen it surface every now and again on the interweb; from Scott Beale's experience at Laughing Squid to Neatorama's post, even Roadside America. Some people have even made videos of the field, like this one of a crazed man running through the corn sculptures. So it obviously catches a lot of peoples' attention, whereas I've kind of mentally written it off.

So again, why the fields?

They're odd, but they're the good kind of odd, and we don't get much of that good-kind-of-odd in Ohio. Not to mention, I think Cochran was trying to make a statement about the suburbanization of of our culture by permanently establishing a cornfield as, well, a cornfield!?!? And an absurd cornfield at that! 109 pieces of 8'0" friggin' tall corn.
From plaques on the site:

Corn has been cultivated in Ohio for approximately 1800 years. It was known to prehistoric Native American Hopewell peoples (A.D. 100-500). Prehistoric and historic Native Americans combined plantings of corn, beans, squash, and gourds in their fields and small garden plots. Two important varieties of corn were Northern flint corn, which had 16 to 20 rows of kernels on long, thin cobs, and Southern gourdseed corn, which had short, stubby ears with up to 32 rows of kernels. By the mid-1700s, Native Americans in Ohio grew great quantities of corn, often in larger fields. Particularly along the Scioto and Miami River valleys, it was not uncommon to see thousands of acres of cornfields. The Wyandot Indians, who are known to have camped on scenic Indian Run just north of Dublin village, were prominent among the historic Native American cultivators of corn.

OK, so the installation's plaque might not expound on my theory of cornfield-as-a-development-statement, but I still thought it was worth a post. And given the recent influx of cheap condos, loft-style apartments and plastic buildings going up in our fair city, who knows? Maybe one day we'll see a public park downtown with 109 strategically-placed tiny buildings scattered across a grass field - a fitting tribute to the over-development currently taking place.

Check it out when you have time:

Field of Corn (with Osage Orange Trees)
4995 Rings Rd
Dublin, OH 43017