When people think of iconic buildings in Columbus, the house at 608 Fifth St. often is among those that come to mind. That’s because the former home of the late Columbus community leader J. Irwin Miller features an ornate gardens modeled after remains of ancient Pompeii.
Construction of the home was completed in 1913. For decades, the gardens were a popular tourist attraction, opened at certain times of the year to the public. The garden features fountains, pools and a classical well.
However, the grounds closed in 2008 after the death of Miller’s widow and fellow arts supporter, Xenia Miller. Soon after, problems at the gardens brought on by age and environmental factors began to show. Fountains were unable to hold water because of cracks. Brick pathways began to crumble. Hedges grew over their edges.
Fortunately, good caretakers arrived with new owners Chris and Jessica Stevens, who reopened the home in 2012 as the Inn at Irwin Gardens — a bed and breakfast. It’s also become a popular rental venue for weddings and other events.
The Stevenses have championed the property and have invested in bringing the gardens back to their original glory. They’re halfway through a restoration project that is expected to take six to eight years.
Restoration work has included new stone and brick, rebuilding retaining walls and planting new paperbark maple trees. Their efforts have been careful to make the needed repairs in ways that retain the original look.
The Stevenses deserve kudos for their efforts. They recognize how special the Irwin Gardens are to local residents — and even visitors — and their place in the city’s architectural heritage.
Their restoration efforts are appreciated, and the end result will be something everyone can enjoy and celebrate.