As it is with many of the historic homes in Columbus, 416 N. Seventh St. has a name that complements the beauty of the property: Camellia Place.
But for years now, the property is also known by the colloquial name it was given by passersby: “The Frog House.”
The home, a Greek Revival built by architect James Lull, has been up for sale for more than three years. In its listing, Crye-Leike Realty notes some of the home’s best features: its all-brick, 6,000-square-foot construction on 1.6 acres, marble fireplaces, exquisite wood molding, winding staircase and beautiful hardwood floors.
But it makes no mention of the feature that most distinguishes the property from the city’s other historic homes: A frog sculpture sitting on a bench facing Seventh Street, of all things.
On Tuesday, the person responsible for turning a whimsical feature on a stately property into a conversation piece passed away.
Patricia “Pat” Kaye, the homeowner, died Tuesday at age 84. A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, Kaye was a longtime assistant librarian at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. Camellia Place, aka The Frog House, became her home when she married John Morgan “Jack” Kaye. Jack Kaye died in 2012.
Pat Kaye will be most widely remembered as the person who turned a joke into a little gift for the community.
Carolyn Kaye, whose late husband, Sam, and Jack Kaye were cousins, said Pat was not a big fan of the frog, at least not at first.
“(Jack) saw it in Atlanta somewhere and fell in love with it,” Carolyn Kaye said. “Bringing the frog back to Columbus was his idea. They put it out on the bench and one day Pat got the idea of dressing up the frog to tease John. It started out as a joke on her husband. People loved it, so she just kept doing it. On Halloween, she dressed up the frog as a witch. At Christmas, it was a Santa Claus suit. On Easter, it was an Easter Bunny outfit. I think one year she dressed the frog in a Pilgrimage dress.”
The frog was such a conversation piece, the couple kept the wrought-iron gate shut and locked to “keep someone from stealing it,” Carolyn Kaye said.
Exactly how long the frog has sat on the bench in front of the Kaye home is not clear.
Carolyn Kaye dates its arrival to the early 1990s, but Justin Davis, Patricia’s grandson, says it may be more recently.
“I know it wasn’t there when me and my brother Jody were really little,” said Justin, 37.
Justin has been a life-long West Point resident, but often spent weekends in Columbus.
“I don’t really remember when it showed up. I remember telling friends about where my grandmother in Columbus lived and after a while I’d mention the frog and they’d say, “Oh, yeah, I know where that is.’ It became sort of like a landmark. I’m surprised how many people know about that frog.”
Justin said he remembered asking his grandmother about the frog, but she didn’t offer many details.
“She would just roll her eyes and say it was something that Jack got, but I think she really did grow to love the frog,” he said.
Crye-Leike’s Dick Leike said while the frog is not part of the listing, it will remain on the property.
“It was Patricia’s wish that it would remain there,” Leike said. “That’s where she believed it was supposed to be.”
Justin said that’s just as well.
“You’d be surprised how heavy that thing is,” he said.
He, too, believes the frog should remain.
“It was just my grandmother’s way of giving people a smile, a way to uplift the community in her own little way,” he said. “When people pass by and see that frog, it keeps my grandmother’s memory alive.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.