Law School Legends and Lore

The Gargoyle

Gargoyle Statue

In 1963, when the existing Law School was demolished to make way for a new building, Law School Dean George Young found and rescued a sandstone gargoyle from the rubble. This figure and its departed twin had sat on the roof of the 1893 building for almost 70 years. While one of the pair perished in its fall, the second landed unscathed.

That rescued gargoyle, which is now permanently installed in the Law School's atrium, represents the indomitable strength and spirit of our University of Wisconsin Law School and its many graduates.

Gargoyles originally appeared on French gothic cathedrals. From the beginning they had at least two purposes: many were made with open mouths that served as drains to divert rain water away from the building's foundations. Whether they carried water or not, their second purpose was to scare away evil spirits. While gargoyles were often grotesque, stone carvers also honored friends and relatives by carving their faces on some gargoyles. Ours does not have a recognizable face, nor was it ever used to divert rainwater, but it clearly worked to keep away evil spirits - hence the good fortune of our School and its graduates.

Concern for the Gargoyle's future led us to have a mold made with the help of the Art Department.  From the mold we have cast two concrete replicas which can make guest appearances if the "real" Gargoyle is otherwise occupied.

In the years since Dean Young rescued the original, the Gargoyle has become the symbol of the School: it lends its name to our alumni magazine, it graces the cover of the Wisconsin Law Review, and its image has been applied to ties, coffee cups, tee shirts and even wrist watches. While few would call it handsome, its strength, longevity and good fortune are appropriate to lend to one of the oldest and finest law schools in the country.

Lock Icon