By ERIN WOOD MILLER '09
He sits high atop the new Hayden-Clark Alumni Center, keeping watch over the ever-changing west side of campus. At more than 2,000 pounds, his size alone is menacing, but his serpent’s tongue and sharp talons complete his persona.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what he is, or if this unusual winged feline creature is really a “he” at all. What is certain is this limestone gargoyle, along with his three “brothers,” has captured the collective attention of campus.
“We are very excited about these,” said Gary Anna, Bradley’s vice president for business affairs, who led the effort to incorporate four hand-carved gargoyles into the design of the new Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.
Two of the new gargoyles resemble the originals on Bradley Hall. The other two have unique designs. “To honor and respect the existing Bradley Hall gargoyles, the decision was made to place two similar figures on the northeast and southeast corners of the Alumni Center tower,” Anna said. “To honor the new view to the west and still respect the history of campus, two new figures were determined — different, yet somewhat matching in their size and appearance.”
In selecting the two new designs, Bradley administrators evaluated existing gargoyles and selected complementary poses — one the whimsical, symmetrical feline creature perched on all fours, and the other a mix of human, canine, and bat-like features sitting in the position of Rodin’s The Thinker to honor Bradley’s focus on academics.
Carving the creatures
Each of the four gargoyles was carved from a 5-foot-by-3-foot slab of limestone extracted from Independent Limestone Co. in Bloomington, Indiana. Just down the road from the quarry, two carvers at 3D Stone Inc. spent about 400 hours over the course of two months shaping each intricate design.
Carver Teddy Sowders, 34, was responsible for executing the two new designs, using only an air chisel and a hand saw. Using drawings and models, Sowders carved the creatures completely freehand.
“I usually sketch everything out and try to get a decent layout,” he said, describing the process. “It’s intense. You have to lay out every angle and every detail so it all comes together perfectly and works from every perspective. It takes much planning from pictures, sketches, and models.”
Prior to carving two of the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center gargoyles, Sowders had been assigned only two other gargoyle projects in his 13-year career. “In our business, we do a lot of panel work, doorways, and fireplaces. We don’t do a lot of three-dimensional sculpture. That was the cool thing about this particular project. Gargoyles are a dying art. You just don’t see pieces like this anymore.”
At home on the Hilltop
As construction of the Alumni Center progressed, the four gargoyles were delivered to campus on March 28. They sat at the foot of the building for three days, admired by students, faculty, and staff (and were snapped by more than a few cell phone cameras) before being hoisted into position on March 31.
Local construction company J.J. Braker and Sons Inc. was responsible for setting the gargoyles in place. Installation began at 7:30 a.m. and took four men and a crane operator until 3:30 p.m. to complete the intricate project. Maneuvering the gargoyles in place took about two hours each.
A crane hoisted each gargoyle onto its respective corner of the tower, where they were lowered onto steel rods that hold them in place. Mortar blends the limestone of the gargoyles and the limestone of the building, while further securing them.
Before the installation, TIM BRAKER ’90, co-owner of J.J. Braker and Sons, admitted he was nervous. “This will be the first time our company has installed gargoyles,” he said. “We have been in business since 1965, and we’ve never come across them. … It will be a great challenge to install them. We are looking forward to creating a part of Bradley’s history.”
Paying homage to the past
When Lydia Moss Bradley founded the University in 1897, she consulted with William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago. He persuaded her to employ Henry Ives Cobb, one of the architects who designed the University of Chicago’s first buildings, to also draft Bradley’s first two structures.
Cobb designed Bradley Hall and Horology Hall (Westlake Hall) in a style popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries known as collegiate gothic, a subcategory of gothic revival also found at universities such as Princeton, Yale, and Duke. Gargoyles were a popular feature of this architectural style, as were intricate arches — another design element found on the new Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.
Cobb included four gargoyles in the original design of Bradley Hall — one on each corner of the building’s tower. Two were damaged in the fire of 1963 (shown at left) and removed, but the others still sit atop the front of the building, keeping watch over the east side of campus.
Why the original gargoyles were incorporated into Bradley Hall’s design is unknown, but Chuck Frey, Bradley’s librarian in Special Collections, believes they were simply a signature of Cobb’s style, executed in most of his buildings’ plans.
Westlake Hall, though it is the same style of building, has not been home to any gargoyles, likely because Peoria architects John Shank and Frank Wetherell were the lead designers for the building in 1897, and Cobb served more as a consultant for that project, according to Frey.
“Although we know nothing specific about why gargoyles were included with the plans for Bradley Hall, it is safe to assume that Cobb was subtly reinforcing the connection that then existed between the University of Chicago and our institution.”
Gargoyles, which date as far back as the 13th century, were originally intended as waterspouts and drains to keep rainwater from damaging the mortar foundations of buildings. The word gargoyle comes from the French word gargouille, meaning “throat” and also describing the “gurgling” sound made by water as it ran through the figure.*
Since the introduction of the lead drainpipe in the 16th century, gargoyles have primarily served as decorative pieces. “While the functional purpose of gargoyles is to manage water away from the mortar of a stone building, they also have ornamental purposes and have been suggested also as a means to ward off evil spirits,” Anna said. “The new gargoyles are complementary to the original limestone facade of Bradley Hall … and a reflection of honor and respect for the founding of the University and the alumni who have passed through BU.”
A place to call home
The Hayden-Clark Alumni Center, one of several building projects in the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance launched in April 2008, is located on the west side of Bradley Hall and eventually will overlook a new Alumni Quad. Ground was broken for the project in October 2009, and it will be completed this summer. The building will open to the public this fall, with the dedication ceremony scheduled for October 15 during Homecoming. The 34,700-square-foot facility includes a ballroom on the third floor that seats more than 200 guests, an alumni library, conference rooms, Alumni Relations offices, and a Hall of Pride.
It is named for JERRY HAYDEN ’59 and his wife MARILYN KELLER HAYDEN ’61 and BOB CLARK ’67 and his wife, Kathleen, who donated a total of $5 million.
* Note: While commonly referred to as gargoyles, the stone figures atop Bradley Hall and other buildings designed in the collegiate gothic architectural style are actually grotesques because they are ornamental and do not serve a functional purpose. While it is technically a misnomer, gargoyle is used throughout the story.