Leo the Lion, standing over Dayton since 1908

Bronze sculpture was the mascot for Steele High School


Highlights

Leo the Lion was the mascot for Steele High School.

Students donated 5 cents a month to help pay for the bronze statue.

Leo the Lion, the bronze sculpture that keeps watch from the Dayton Art Institute, originally was the mascot for a downtown high school.

The mascot, which stood guard over Steele High School at the corner of Main Street and Monument Avenue, was the brainchild of the school’s decorative arts department.

PHOTOS: Steele High School mascot through the years

According to a Dayton Daily News article published at the 1908 unveiling, it took 10 years and a combination of fundraisers, including a monthly five cent donation from the students, to come up with the funds for the statue.

Sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt, an animalier, was commissioned to create the icon. She studied and made sketches of “Sultan,” a black African lion housed at New York’s Bronx Park Zoo, before creating a one-fourth-sized model.

RECENT HISTORY EXTRA FEATURES:

Dispatches describe ruin of the 1913 flood

Pvt. George Washington Fair has stood watch over the city for 133 years

Protecting Dayton’s valuables: The Bimm Fireproof Warehouse

The artist, who donated her skills to the school, traveled to Naples, Italy in 1907, to supervise the bronze casting of the lion at a local foundry.

“I worked all that winter modeling the large lion and in March and April they cast it by the cire-perdu process exactly as it was done in the days of Benvenuto Cellini,” she told the Dayton Daily News in 1952.

“The place was lit only by oil torches. An image of the Virgin was conspicuous and during the crucial pourings of the bronze the excited workmen knelt to pray for the success of the pouring.”

Hyatt traveled to Dayton for the “heroic statue in bronze” unveiling held Dec. 11, 1908. She described her artistic process to an audience, the Steele High School band performed and numerous presentations were made.

“This splendid work of art, so suggestive of dignity, poise and latent power, will but prove to be another means of enhancing your loyalty and affection for your alma mater…” said John E. Eberhardt, chairman of the high school committee of the board of education.

The crowd of students and teachers, wearing red and black, the Steele High School colors, moved outside and into the street to view the campus scene as the new mascot was unveiled.

A rope tied to a tarp covering the sculpture was yanked, but it didn’t budge. A high school boy climbed up the pedestal and pulled the shroud clear displaying the lion to the throng.

»EXCLUSIVE CONTENT: Download our apps for real-time alerts on the news you care about 

»NEWS IN YOUR INBOX: Sign up for our email newsletters on the topics you love 

“The beautiful Lion over which our banner floated, stood looking down…” wrote student Carrie A. Breene in 1923. “There was absolute silence for one long moment. Cars had stopped, citizens had joined us, all traffic was still. Then broke tumultuous huzzas from hundreds of throats and the crowds surged nearer.”

In 1913, raging flood water knocked the lion from its pedestal, breaking his tail and destroying the base he stood on. The community rallied and raised funds to reinstate the statue and in the fall held another dedication.

The mascot kept watch over generations of Dayton students as they entered Steele High School. In 1955, after the school had closed, Leo was moved to his current home perched outside the Dayton Art Institute overlooking the skyline.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

3 police officers help man in distress: ‘God puts us ... where he needs us,’ one says
3 police officers help man in distress: ‘God puts us ... where he needs us,’ one says

Providence was evident in a trio of law enforcement officers who came to the aid of a man stricken earlier this month while dining with his wife in Tipp City. The man, himself a nurse, became ill Jan. 11 at Hinders Sports Bar & Grill.  The three officers -- Miami Twp. Detective Dan Wessling, Tipp City Sgt. Marc Basye and West Carrollton Officer...
What will happen to the historic Station Road schoolhouse? Township, would-be owners, neighbors involved
What will happen to the historic Station Road schoolhouse? Township, would-be owners, neighbors involved

Despite a Butler County judge’s ruling, the battle over the historic Station Road schoolhouse continues, with the owners of the Community Montessori School filing an appeal with the 12th District Court of Appeals in their quest to acquire the building. “We’ve appealed, and we’re continuing to move it forward,” Montessori...
Solution met between Dayton food pantry and city officials
Solution met between Dayton food pantry and city officials

With God’s Grace, a nonprofit food pantry was approved to operate again after a solution was met during a zoning administrative meeting Monday. The pantry, located at 622 Springfield St., will begin operations Jan. 31 under new plans. “When I came out of the meeting, I felt relieved because I know that we got a solution. Our families are...
Five people are missing after Oklahoma rig explosion
Five people are missing after Oklahoma rig explosion

Five people are missing after a fiery explosion ripped through an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig on Monday, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and leaving a derrick crumpled on the ground, emergency officials said. More than 20 employees were at the natural gas well site when the blast was reported around 8:45 a.m., Pittsburg County Sheriff...
Arrest ends standoff with police, SWAT in Greenville
Arrest ends standoff with police, SWAT in Greenville

UPDATE @ 7:35 p.m.: A person has been taken into custody from the SWAT search of a home on 12th Street.  Police and the special tactics team had been at the residence, in the 300 block, at least 3 hours, a resident tells us.  We're working to find out more details about today's standoff and arrest. There is a standoff occurring at this hour...
More Stories