For weeks, local artist John Landsiedel has climbed through a labyrinth of scaffolding to reach the top of the iconic dome of the Dayton Arcade.
Working on a wood deck constructed high above the Arcade’s floor, he has rehabilitated 16 plaster turkeys created by his grandfather, Byron Landsiedel, more than 100 years ago.
Byron Landsiedel was a man of many talents, working as a glass and ceramic artist and playing violin in the Cincinnati symphony. Working within the solitude of the dome gave Landsiedel time to reflect on his grandfather.
“As a little kid, I just heard stories. I never met him before he died, but by being up here I think I had some nice conversations with him,” he said. “I don’t know if he heard them but since I was the only one here I could talk out loud and we had some nice talks.”
The turkeys his grandfather created were placed at the base of each of the 16 beams that ring the dome. The Arcade, Dayton’s crowning jewel, opened in 1904 and was called “one of the country’s most modern and complete structures of its’ kind,” in a Dayton Daily News story published March 3, 1904. The glass dome is 90 feet in diameter and 70-feet high.
Landiedel said he was surprised the turkeys were in good shape considering they were installed 116 years ago.
“Cosmetically there were a lot of holes that had to be filled and some of the bracing used to hold them onto the beam was re-secured,” he said. “They are solid up here to last another 100 years.”
The turkeys have been cleaned and repainted in shades of brown, gold and vivid red. Some of the wattles were rebuilt and the eyes have been painted blue.
While working Landsiedel listened to oldies radio and created a discreet tribute to the singers, writing “Elvis”, “Elton” and “Ringo” among others on the tops of the turkeys in a spot that will never be seen from below.
A cornucopia made of vegetables and fruits at the center of the dome and a metal lighting fixture reminiscent of a carousel have also being refurbished.
Landsiedel said the “undisturbed thinking time” inspired him to give back with art.
He will sell his artwork in a gallery at the Dayton Culture Works office, 110 N. Main St., with proceeds going toward renovation of the Arcade. The art pieces, made out of recycled materials, will have a small piece of rubble from the Arcade rehabilitation tucked inside.
He is also planning an art auction for the future with other local artists inside the Arcade with proceeds benefiting local art programs and the renovation.
“I never thought I would be up here like this, but it made me think of all the times I came in here with my family,” he said.
“I think young people are going to rediscover just what the heart of Dayton is, and I think it’s the Arcade. And they’re going to come here and enjoy it and start making a whole new time of memories.”