By Renee Gannon
“Our beloved cupola is back,” said Lori Ogburn-Doughty, as she and her husband Mike gazed upon West High School’s new cupola shining like a beacon of hope in the night.
Hoards of West High alumni, along with city school board members, students, Westside residents and community representatives squeezed into the auditorium on April 10 to participate in the celebration of the rising and lighting of the new cupola.
Like many in the community, Doughty, a 1989 West High alumni, said she was devastated when the 90-year-old cupola was declared a safety hazard and school officials had to tear it down.
“We were worried that they wouldn’t replace it,” she said.
However, the district managed to approve the funds and invested approximately $340,000 for the restoration. The new cupola, in appearance, is identical to the old cupola,weighing 75 pounds lighter and is made with materials that will withstand the weather.
The West High School building, with the cupola, stands at 90 feet high and is the tallest building on the Westside.
Resting on top of the new cupola is a reproduction of the original weathervane portraying pioneers traveling in a covered wagon with the school’s namesake “Cowboys.”
Board of Education President, Gary Baker, who was a resident of the Hilltop for almost 20 years, stated there was no question in his mind that the cupola would be restored.
“The cupola is critical to the fabric and rebirth of the Hilltop community,” he said. “There are a handful of buildings that deserve the status of icon and West High School is well deserving of the public investments and improvements that were made to the school and will continue to be made.”
Hundreds of alumni toured the school’s Hall of Fame and Hall of Champions, while running into old school mates, hugging and shaking hands. Many brought their own iconic symbols and sported their lettered high school Cowboy jackets.
“If only these walls could talk,” said David Broeker, a 1983 graduate of West High.
As he looked at the retired weathervane on display, he said, “The pioneers are heading into a future of the unknown, in some ways it represents students, we all have had to pioneer into our own unknown futures. It is a right of passage and is very symbolic.”
Broeker compared the missing cupola to that of the nearby Camp Chase Memorial. He said it broke his heart when thieves beheaded a confederate soldier that stood on top of the monument.
“I have a hard time looking at that monument to this day, because with the confederate soldier gone, it seems empty. That’s how I felt about the cupola; I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it until it was gone.”
Dr. John Stanford, Columbus City Schools Interim Superintendent, was a presenter at the ceremony.
He said, “Some things get better with age and time has not been kind to West High in the past years. We will continue to honor the school and continue to make investments not only in the building but also in the students. We celebrate the old and the new and will keep the legacy of West High shining not only across the Hilltop community, but all across the city of Columbus. The best days remain ahead of us for both the school and the community.”