Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Annetta St. Gaudens Saves a Natural Setting for City Children
Annetta St. Gaudens was a nationally known sculptor working in the St. Gaudens artist colony at Cornish, New Hampshire. By 1910 she had inherited a dramatic gorge above Worthington, part of William Thompson’s farm platted in 1803. Although there was a mill on the property, the stream and ravine were preserved in their original state. William Thompson, one of the original Worthington settlers, was the great-great grandfather of Annetta.
Annetta graduated from the Columbus Art School (precursor of CCAD) in 1885, studied in New York, became an assistant to Augustus St. Gaudens, and in 1898 married his younger brother, Louis.
In growing up on her family’s farm in nearby Flint Township near Worthington, she modeled animals from clay. As a young Columbus ceramicist, Annetta became acquainted with geology professor Edward Orton, senior, the first president of OSU, and others who were promoting the arts and social services in Columbus. She shared professional interest in the ceramic clays of the ravine on her farm with Edward Orton, junior, who succeeded his father as Ohio geologist in 1899 and established the department of ceramic engineering at the Ohio State University.
Annetta St. Gaudens actively supported early 20th century social movements such as temperance, women’s suffrage and environmental preservation. The latter was reflected in her bird and animal ceramics. In 1910 she gifted ten acres of the scenic ravine to the Neighborhood Guild Association (NGA), which ran Godman House on Goodale Street.
Godman House was modeled after Jane Adams’ Hull House in Chicago and their summer camp became Camp Johnson. Edward Orton Jr. was an active member of the Neighborhood Guild board of directors and the camp became a summer retreat for children of impoverished neighborhoods, such as Flytown.
After his return from service during World War One, Edward Orton Jr. approached Annetta St. Gaudens about selling her remaining farmland to the NGA (soon to become the Godman Guild.) Annetta accepted a mortgage to be paid off in ten years, Orton donating the funds to the Guild for annual mortgage payments, and the Guild raising funds for buildings and development for the camp.
Both Orton and St Gaudens served on the board as development began and she stayed at Godman House when she was in Columbus on board business. It remained Camp Johnson into the 1920s and the mortgage was paid off before Edward Orton’s untimely death in 1932. The camp was renamed Camp Mary Orton after his wife and the natural beauty of the setting has been preserved for generations of camp goers since then.