Judy, one possibility may be to install a fake/false column over the missing paneling. Without having measurements, sounds like a little 1x6 and 1x8 pine for plinth block and capital would cover this and then paint the wood. This would be pretty cheap. Alternately, they do make wrappers for lally posts that might be used. You could even get a sheet of plywood and cut out a palm tree or a pine tree shape and paint then nail that up.
These are sure not the only answers but are possible answers and idea starters. A lot depends on the look of the room now.