Joseph Robaldo Frazee and Vitruvius Frazee, 1901-02
Master mason and sculptor Joseph Robaldo Frazee and his son Vitruvius Frazee carved the 12 creatures that sat on pedestals lining the seventh floor of Dyche Hall in 1901 and 1902.
The cottonwood limestone statues, each 44 inches tall, resemble the gargoyles used on medieval buildings to disguise drainpipes; the Dyche creatures are “grotesques,” because they lack the pipe and spout that permit gargoyles to function as downspouts.
The Frazees also carved the frieze of fantastic animals and plants arching over the front door and the other decorative stone elements on the Venetian Romanesque building, which was designed by Kansas City architects Walter C. Root and George W. Siemens.
Three grotesques have words from KU’s signature chant engraved on plaques on their chests: on the southwest side, the words “Rock Chalk” and the date 1873, the year the first university class graduated; on the left above the front entrance, “Jayhawk” and a question mark, unexplained; and on right above the front entrance, “KU.”
Four of the originals were removed when a Dyche addition was built in 1962, and one was lost; the three others were restored in 1996 by Lawrence sculptor John Swift and are in the administrative offices on the sixth floor of Dyche Hall. One of these, resembling a lion, has the word “Kansas” engraved on a banner on its chest.
The remaining eight soft limestone statues have been removed from the exterior of Dyche Hall because of damage caused by erosion and reinstalled in the Panorama Ggallery. They will be replaced on the exterior by new, more weather-resistant replicas.