The man who made the bottom of one of the Northmoor pillars disappear last week while the top stone remained in place is a mason, not a magician.
James Cox, the owner of Vic Art Masonry, is working on a major restoration project for the two structures that have marked the entrance to the Clintonville neighborhood for possibly as long as a century.
They were badly in need of the attention, Cox said last week as the project, which Northmoor resident Patricia Campbell got started ("I'm just the instigator," she said), proceeded apace.
"It was falling apart," Cox said. "We had to brace it up. It was getting ready to fall to pieces. If we'd let it go a couple of months, it would have fallen to the ground, reoriented itself in a horizontal fashion.
"I just wasn't going to let it happen."
"The pillars are kind of our gateway to Northmoor," Campbell said. "Over time, as things happen to old places, old houses, old whatever, they needed help."
Campbell grew up in Dayton but then relocated to the West Coast for 32 years, living first in San Francisco and then Seattle.
"The longer I was there, the further away from home I felt," she said.
Campbell came back to Ohio a dozen years ago, settling in Clintonville because she enjoyed the diversity of the neighborhood. She likes old homes, which is why she's in a 1921 bungalow, the first house built on her street.
And she especially likes the pillars on Northmoor Place that mark the entry to the neighborhood, bordered by North Broadway, High Street, Hollenback Road and the Olentangy River.
But time and, oddly enough, gunfire had taken their toll on the pillars, Campbell noticed a while ago.
The pillars were struck by some of the stray shots from a May 15, 2013, gun battle on North High Street that left police officers injured and a murder suspect and his girlfriend dead in the parking lot of the fire station.
"They took a little wound," Campbell said of the pillars. "I don't know if that started it, but there was this crack that appeared on the one on the north side."
She consulted Cox, who has been an independent businessman since 2000 and has been working in masonry since 1990, because he had completed some stone work at her home. Cox, who lives not far from the pillars, decided to accept the challenge, supplying labor and materials, but Campbell has launched a fundraising effort to at least partly compensate him.
"I think we need to raise the money in Clintonville just to kind of offset costs as a thank-you to Jim," she said.
"This is high-end restoration of one of the nicest examples of stone work I can think of in our neighborhood," Cox said. "They didn't put their hacks on this job when they built them. This is great material. This is old enough it might have been done with steam saws."
He said the pillars could date as far back as 1910 or possibly as recently as 1920. The cost of the restoration work will be around $8,000, Cox estimated.
"We're just getting started," he said last week.
The approximately 700-pound top stone of the more severely deteriorated northern pillar was nestled in a cradle in its original location last week while Cox dismantled the pier underneath, numbering stones as they were removed in order to put them back in their original location.
He guessed the restoration will take perhaps another week to finish.
"I have other projects that actually pay money, so I have to fit this one in," Cox said.
As of Monday, July 21, $350 of the $8,000 fundraising goal had been met.
To donate, visit tinyurl.com/northmoorpillars.