Walking the Gargoyle

In light of the 150-year anniversary of the University of Kentucky College of Engineering, we are introducing “Now You Know,” a new back page feature that will highlight an interesting piece of history connected to the college.

“What is that thing?”

gargoyleEvery now and then, curious students in the Joseph G. and Suzanne W. Teague Atrium of the Ralph G. Anderson Building notice the bizarre iron sculpture attached to the north-facing wall, roughly even with the second floor walkway. The scene depicts a scaled creature blowing a horn preceded by a gargoyle or similar creature. A lantern dangles from its mouth. Less obvious details include a battle axe encircled by a serpent and a collection of ironworking tools. It is a piece worth one’s attention and has been a staple in the College of Engineering for 84 years.

Known by many names including the “Iron Dragon” and “Walking the Gargoyle,” the work is a reproduction of an iron monger’s sign discovered in Assisi, Italy and featured in the August 1927 issue of Architecture magazine. Intrigued by the undated piece, UK instructors Stephen T. Saunier and J.G. McBee created the facsimile in 1931 with the assistance of engineering students. Upon its completion, it was placed at the entrance of the Henry W. Wendt Shop of the university, which had opened a few years earlier. When the Wendt Shop was razed after 71 years of service to make way for the Ralph G. Anderson Building in 1998, UK’s rendition was preserved until its new home was completed.