Over the holidays, I received an email from a St. Louis visitor, Jeff, asking about Dick and Harry, the stalwart Pfister lions who have been dutifully standing guard at the hotel since its opening in 1893.
The lions, affectionately known as Dick and Harry, were purchased in Italy by T. A. Chapman for $1,500 (modern value approx. $42,000). The cast bronze lions were sculpted by Antoine Durenne (1822-1895), a French artist and foundry owner who was best known for his ornamental iron works and oversized cast bronze animal sculptures. The gift from the Chapman’s department store owner and initial investor in the hotel delighted Charles Pfister, who was often quoted saying of the statues, “these lions are highly intelligent, well-mannered, and good listeners. This is an indication of their wisdom.” The lions stood guard outside the Wisconsin Avenue doors until they were moved indoors in 1926, during an extensive remodeling of the hotel lobby. The steadfast pair have been dutifully watching over the Pfister, and its guests, at the foot of the staircase ever since.
Jeff questioned placement of the lions, thinking they should face each other, rather than away from each other. I had always assumed that the lions were placed in a way that mirrored their original placement on Wisconsin Avenue. Doing a bit of research, I discovered my assumption was incorrect. I uncovered a 1901 photograph of the hotel which shows the bronze pair outside the Wisconsin Avenue doors. Looking closely, I could see the lion were, indeed, facing each other. As to why their positions changed when they were brought indoors is a mystery lost to history. One could speculate that the pair were moved to mirror the famous lions standing guard outside the Art Institute of Chicago, or their slightly outward facing Milwaukee neighbors, the lions of Lake Park, but there is no evidence to support these suppositions.
Dick and Harry, whether facing each other, or facing away are considered an integral part of this historic landmark, and will stand guard for generations to come.
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