Angel watches studiers on Lovejoy Library 2nd

Members of the University Museum work at installing the terra cotta angel on the 2nd floor of Lovejoy Library in 1985. photo courtesy of University Museum.

Students who study on Lovejoy Library’s second floor are graced by the presence of an angel. The angel has kept watch in the group study area just above the south entrance to the library since 1985.

Eric Barnett, director of the University Museum, states that the angel used to be a piece of a building in St. Louis called the Lincoln Trust Building. The building, which was imploded in 1983, was designed by William Eames and Thomas Young. It stood next to the Wainwright Building in downtown St Louis.

Before the building was imploded, however, Mark Turken and Paul Miller, Jr., paid a building salvager, Larry Giles, to salvage some of the decorative cornice pieces. According to Barnett, Giles was working on a short deadline. The salvaged pieces were placed on the rooftop and when the building was imploded, they “floated down” with the roof.

Turken and Miller donated pieces of angels from the building to SIUE, as well as to other institutions, according to Barnett. All told, SIUE received 14 pieces of angels. Barnett stated that some of the pieces were traded to the Art Institute in Chicago in exchange for a floor mosaic from Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater in Chicago.

The angel in Lovejoy, as well as a host of others, were created using a technique called press molding, according to Barnett.

“Large steel molds were made and the terra cotta was pressed into the molds. Then, as [the terra cotta] dried, it would shrink slightly so it could be released from the mold,” Barnett stated. “But the mold did not have the details for the feathers on the wings, and all the facial features. So each one had to be sculpted by hand to finish before they were fired. So each one of the angels is a little different.”

The molds were created by Winkle Terra Cotta, which, Barnett stated, went out of business. Winkle Terra Cotta also created the terra cotta work for the Wainwright Building.

Barnett stated that the angel is made from lilac terra cotta. The name comes from the color that the terra cotta is after dyes are added. The angel in the library is composed of three pieces. Because of the size and shape of the angel, an engine hoist was used to put the top piece into place.

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