Detail of Reading Room. Photo copyright Loyd C. Heath.

Jewel Renewal. Story by Tom Griffin. Photo copyright Stewart Hopkins.

Suzzallo Facts, Figures, Oddities

 A portal to knowledge: the library's main entrance. Photo copyright William Thompson.
A portal to knowledge: the library's main entrance. Photo copyright William Thompson.

Across the west fašade of Suzzallo Library are statues of 18 "great thinkers"—a list of "who's hot" in 1923 academic circles. UW President Henry Suzzallo asked the faculty that year for nominations and got back 246 names. A committee made up of Suzzallo, Regent Winlock Miller and Dean David Thomson made the final selections and the UW hired Tacoma sculptor Allan Clark to make the figures out of terra cotta. No one is quite sure why they were placed in the order they are, but, from left to right, the figures represent Moses, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Johannes Gutenberg, Ludwig von Beethoven, Charles Darwin and Hugo Grotius.

These are not the only works by Allan Clark that grace the building. Above the main portals are three heroic figures of cast stone representing "Mastery," "Inspiration" and "Thought." Horace C. Henry financed the three pieces just a year before he donated the funds to build the Henry Art Gallery. According to library records, the UW buildings and grounds superintendent, Charles C. May, posed for the athletic "Mastery" statue. Clark asked a Tacoma woman, Jean Lambert, to pose as "Inspiration," but there is no record of the model for the ancient "Thought" figure.

The seals of many great universities-including even a few rivals of the Huskies on the football field-adorn the western fašade of Suzzallo Library. Included are seals for Bologna, California, Harvard, Heidelberg, Louvain, Michigan, Oxford, Paris, Salamanca, Stanford, Toronto, Upsala, Virginia and Yale.

 'Inspiration' statue above the main entrance. Photo by William Thompson
"Inspiration" statue above the main entrance.

Inside the Suzzallo Reading Room are still more symbols of learning. In the stained glass windows are 28 watermarks from European papermakers of the late Middle ages and early Renaissance. An ornamental carved oak frieze rests above the reading room bookshelves. The carvings celebrate native flowers and shrubs such as salal, Douglas fir, scrub oak, dogwood, grape, trillium, salmon berry and rhododendron.

After it opened, the building did reveal some idiosyncrasies. The reading room was so dark that eventually librarians cut off part of the chandeliers so that they would give off more light. The original doors had beautiful ironwork, but they were deemed "too heavy" for coeds to open. The hand-crafted ironwork became scrap for the campus metal shop. —Tom Griffin

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