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Campus & Community

Ask the Archivist: The Many Moves of A.J. Drexel's Statue

May 15, 2014

Drexel statue being relocated

The statue of our founder, Anthony J. Drexel, hasn't always gazed down Market Street. Completed in 1904, the statue by sculptor Moses Ezekiel was originally situated in Fairmount Park, on Lansdowne Drive.

A 1922 letter from the records of Hollis Godfrey, Drexel's second president.

The monument was funded by Drexel's business partner, John Harjes, whose name may be familiar to some: Drexel, Harjes & Co. was the Paris office of Drexel & Co. In Harjes, Drexel found a loyal and capable partner who was said never to have missed a day of work. After Drexel's death, the Paris firm was renamed Morgan, Harjes & Co., much as Drexel, Morgan of New York became J.P. Morgan and Co.

During its half-century in Fairmount Park, the statue was a favorite sight of the Drexel family and, it seems, of photographers; in the 1922 letter shown at left, from the records of Drexel's second president, Hollis Godfrey, a photographer offers to sell the Institute copies of his photograph of the statue. Sadly, the photograph promised in the letter never arrived.

The Drexel statue in its former location, near the 33rd Street trolley entrance.

In 1966, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Drexel Institute of Technology, the Fairmount Park Commission agreed to move Drexel's statue to University City, half a block west of the current location. Students and faculty formed a caravan of cars to accompany the statue on its journey from Fairmount Park to Market Street. The photo at right shows the statue beside the 33rd Street trolley entrance, on the current site of the Pearlstein Business Learning Center, with Drexel looking north toward Nesbitt Hall and the Armory.

The Drexel statue in mid-relocation.

But this was only the first of the statue's many moves around campus. The statue was restored by a conservator in 1984 and later relocated to the east side of Matheson Hall, at 32nd Street, to make way for the Pearlstein Business Learning Center. Finally, with Gerri C. LeBow Hall replacing Matheson Hall, the statue has moved again, just a few feet this time. Now it looks eastward, in the direction of the original Drexel & Co. office in Old City. Perhaps this is the permanent home of the statue, but with the way Drexel changes, perhaps not.

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Anthony Drexel