December 1, 2023

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Eiffel Tower replica all that remains of Columbus Walk O’ Wonders

Paris is so lovely this time of year. Or at least this little slice of Paris, tucked away on a wooded lot in suburban Columbus.

“There she is,” said Steve Skilken, 72, president of realty company Joseph Skilken & Co., gesturing to the 22-foot-tall, wrought-iron Eiffel Tower replica on one of his properties.

The tower sort of blends in with the tree line, its criss-crossing metal beams mimicking the barren branches when silhouetted against the sunset. But it is distinctly Parisian, even at 1/48th of the size of the original.

This Eiffel Tower isn’t just an ornamental decoration of a local Francophile. It’s the last remaining artifact of the Walk O’ Wonders, a bygone landmark of Columbus’ Hilltop created by Skilken’s father and local development moguls.

Beginning in the 1950s, Great Western Shopping Center on the Hilltop was home to the Walk O' Wonders, detailed replicas of some of the Wonders of the World. All of them were eventually destroyed when the exhibit closed except for one: a 22-foot-tall wrought-iron replica of the Eiffel Tower that now stands on a suburban Columbus property owned by Steve Skilken. His daughter, Blake, 18, stands with the replica in February.

A piece of Hilltop history at the Great Western Shopping Center

Opened in 1955, the Walk O’ Wonders was an outdoor exhibit that occupied a 700-foot-by-60-foot strip in the parking lot of Great Western Shopping Center. What began as a way to draw shoppers to the new strip mall became a roadside attraction for residents and travelers alike.

The Walk O’ Wonders had seven attractions, including a 20-foot-tall Leaning Tower of Pisa; a Grand Canyon that was 40 feet long and 8 feet deep; a miniature desert landscape featuring the Great Pyramids and Sphinx; and a functioning Niagara Falls that pumped 1 million gallons of water daily. And, of course, there was the Eiffel Tower.