Decades old stone lions repaired, back on guard in New Carlisle

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

For more than two years, the front steps of historic Crawford House, 106 East Jefferson Street in New Carlisle, have been sadly vacant.

The stone steps were particularly empty since the entrance had been guarded for decades by two stately Kern Lions. It had seemed to neighbors that the lions watched over the town as well.

Kern Lions have a special place in the hearts of Germantown, Ohio, residents. Since 1985 a local retiree Homer Kern had been creating the statues using a mold he had found in his barn. The 300 lion figures he produced can now be found all over the Germantown area and actually in 10 states.

In 1991 the Crawford House Lions were made by Mr. Kern especially for Sally Raiteri, who had fallen in love with the lions when visiting Germantown. She proudly christened them Zeus and Apollo when she set them up by her front door at Crawford House.

Well, actually, she had them placed there because each weighs more than 400 pounds. Oddly that is how much the largest flesh and blood lions weigh in Africa.

Zeus and Apollo guarded her front door through pleasant and stormy weather for 30 years. With stony dignity they watched big changes come to the corner of Jefferson and Main streets. Old stores disappeared and new ones popped up. The pair witnessed the first airplane parade as well.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

However, all that peace came to a violent end on October 26, 2021. A high-speed automobile chase concluded in an accident that crushed the cement statues.

Sally Raiteri was there when the Subaru Legacy hit her home and remembers the horrible noise. She was horrified at the extensive damages that her historic home suffered.

In addition to the lions, wrought iron fencing was taken out, landscape damaged, woodwork in the windows was shattered and the front wall of the brick home that was built in 1849 nearly caved in. According to Raiteri, structural engineers concluded that the mass of the two very heavy lions absorbed enough of the force of the accident to save the building.

“They did their job,” said Raiteri, who had a friend take all the pieces of the solid cement lions to a safe place for storage.

She had hoped that the lions could be reassembled as well as having her home restored during the next few months.

But a few months extended into a year, then two, and the lions languished in pieces in the barn.

Early last fall when Raiteri attended a presentation by sculptor Mike Major at the College Women’s Club in Dayton, she dared to ask the celebrated artist if he might consider restoring her lions.

Mike Major’s name should be familiar to readers since his beautiful bronze sculptures can be found all over the Springfield area. Sculptures by Major that are displayed locally include George Rogers Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Moore, A. B. Graham, Clementine Buchwalter and Carleton Davidson out at George Rogers Clark Park. He created the huge Lincoln statue in downtown Dayton and another Lincoln at the VA.

Intrigued by her request, the artist traveled to New Carlisle to view the pieces of the lions. Without hesitation he agreed to do the repairs.

Only four months later, Raiteri got a telephone call that the Kern Lions were ready to come home.

Zeus and Apollo were gently placed back on their perch on Dec. 12, and Raiteri immediately decorated her old friends for the holiday season. They wore evergreen garland, bright red bows and golden crowns. All was again right with the world on Jefferson Street.

Raiteri was elated and surprised by the community response.

Immediately the word went out that the Kern Lions were back. When neighbor Abe Kegley at Abe’s Treasures posted photos online, there was an excited response from all over the area.

The lions had been sorely missed, even by passersby during their commute to work. Raiteri also noticed people having their picture taken with Zeus and Apollo.

Major was excited to be a part of their return, and the artist posted the story on his Facebook page as well.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve when the ball dropped in New Carlisle, the Kern Lions were on duty to witness it.

In my opinion that has to be a good omen for 2024. The world may be a mess right now, but the lions are back.

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