Like all cities, Columbus has had its share of mistakes, misadventures and missed opportunities during its long history.
It has also had its share of successes, too.
There is likely no better example of the latter than the town’s efforts to preserve its history.
There are, at last count, more than 600 structures in the city listed in the U.S. Registry of Historic Places, everything from private homes and businesses to government buildings.
While the vagaries of history have played no small role in that — unlike many Southern cities whose antebellum buildings were destroyed during the Civil War, Columbus was spared — there has also been a conscious effort to preserve our grand old buildings.
While much of the history of many cities can be found mainly in images preserved at the local library, Columbus residents need only look out the window to see evidence of the almost 200 years of the city’s history.
That did not happen by accident or without cost.
This week, we see another example — perhaps the best example in quite some time — of historic preservation in our city.
Real-estate executive Dick Leike and his wife, Jo Anne, expect to close on the purchase of Riverview, thus preserving one of the city’s architectural treasures. This comes after a 20-year period in which the property’s future was anything but certain.
Built in the 1850s, the massive Greek revival mansion at 511 Second St. S., is not only one of the city’s numerous listings on the Registry of Historic Places, it also carries the designation of U.S. National Landmark.
There can be no question of Leike’s motivation in buying the old home, which was once listed by his own real estate company at a price of $1.5 million.
The Leikes already own one historic home in Columbus, “White Arches,” and have no plans to move.
“That was never a thought,” Leike says. “You know, no one really owns these kinds of homes. We are stewards. We want to restore Riverview and make it something the entire community can continue to enjoy. Jo Anne and I are just happy that we are in the position to be able to do that.”
We commend the Leikes, but we also pause to note our debt of gratitude to the previous owner, Patty (formerly Murfee) DeBardeleben, who was also motivated by a spirit of preservation when she and her late husband, John, purchased Riverview in 1970. At the time, there was talk of demolishing the mansion and building apartments on the large parcel.
Although she has not lived in Columbus these past 20 years, DeBardeleben was careful to make sure the building did not fall into disrepair, hiring a caretaker to tend the old home.
“Riverview as been one of the city’s true treasures for 160 years,” Leike said. “We hope it continues to be a treasure for another 160 years. We are happy we can be a part of that.”
Most of us will never live or own any of these grand old structures, yet we still feel a certain pride of ownership. They are among our city’s distinguishing features, a source of beauty and a connection to a grand history that has become a part of our shared identity.
DeBardeleben and the Leikes, like so many others who have worked so hard and paid so dearly to preserve these community assets, deserve our gratitude.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.