LAWRENCE — Four of the iconic hand-carved grotesques of mythical beasts that have adorned Dyche Hall for almost 115 years will be taken down Friday, Sept. 1, and placed in the Panorama Gallery of the KU Natural History Museum.
The fantastical limestone animals, each about 3 feet tall, have suffered serious erosion since their installation in 1903 when Dyche Hall was built. They will be wrapped and crated, then removed by crane starting at 8 a.m. The museum will completely unwrap one or two of grotesques for display in the gallery. The museum plans to raise funds to hire an artist to replace each of the grotesques with carved replicas, as the originals are irreparable.
“Each is a work of art created by Joseph Frazee at the turn of last century,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. “They are a unique mythological menagerie created specifically to honor Kansas and KU. They have suffered more than 100 years of Kansas wind, sun, snow and rain, and we are committed to replacing them with new hand-carved replicas.”
Four additional grotesques on the east side of Dyche Hall will be removed later this fall and added to those on display in the museum.
A request for bids for carving new grotesques is forthcoming.
The removal of the grotesques is part of a $4.2 million renovation funded by the state of Kansas. It will clean and repair the exterior stonework, replace the roof, windows and all internal walls, and install a new HVAC system for the seventh floor of the 1903 building. It will also restore the seventh floor to its original splendor, Krishtalka said.
“The drop ceiling will be removed, exposing the beams of the vaulted roofline,” he said. “Scrolled woodwork will be stripped of paint and restored.”
The seventh floor of Dyche is home to thousands of mammal and bird specimens, and it houses the research offices and laboratories of KU Biodiversity Institute graduate students and scientists. Once completed in February 2018, the environment on the seventh floor will conform to established conservation standards that are ideal for study and housing of the research collections.
To support the fund for recreating the grotesques, please visit the Biodiversity Institute website.
Photos: Construction at Dyche Hall. Top and top right photo courtesy of Andy White, KU Marketing Communications. Bottom right photo courtesy of the Natural History Museum.