It’s been five years to the day since I asked the MissPres universe to “Show Me the Alligator Gargoyles!” and now that no one has stepped forward with pictures, I felt it was time to take matters into my own hands.
To jog your memory, I had re-read the (three) introductions in the 1976 publication Jackson Landmarks and came across this amazing assertion about the Lamar Life Building (built 1924-25) by Thomas Spengler in his essay, “Time Was . . . When the fun was . . . on Capitol Street.”
When the Lamar Life Building was young (and so was I, for that matter) there were upside-down alligators that decorated the structure as well as those gargoyles. The alligators, though, were at street level, flanking the main entrance and thus very visible to passersby. You didn’t have to look up to see them; you only had to turn your head as you walked by. Why were they removed and the gargoyles spared? The alligators were every bit as Gothic in the mood they created–equally ugly, equally threatening, even more evil than the gargoyles because they were upside down, heads pointed toward nether regions where all sorts of horrors might wait just below Capitol Street’s placid and sun-warmed surface. Oh they were scary to a lad of five or so, who held tightly to a parent’s hand as he walked past the building.
I went on a search for images of the alligators, which I couldn’t believe I had never heard of before, but came up empty-handed, as I noted in my 2012 post:
Why have I never seen pictures of these wonderful alligator gargoyles? How could such amazing creatures have gone unphotographed? Surely they were photographed and I just haven’t seen the images. If you know of pictures of these alligators, let the rest of us know in the comments and we’ll work to get those images here on MissPres. Their removal is very unfortunate, but if we can bring them back to life digitally at least we’ll know what we’re missing.
No one stepped forward with images, and over the next few years, I forgot about it. But recently, I heard tell of a set of Lamar Life blueprints in the collection of the MDAH Historic Preservation Division that might provide me with answers to this persistent question. And sure enough . . .
here in living color is proof that there once were alligators, and this is what they looked like!
As you can see, while the figures with crossed legs are still in place to the sides of the entrance, the alligators are no longer there and have been gone at least since the 1970s. It doesn’t seem like the alligators served a functional purpose such as a downspout; maybe they were damaged and just got removed. Curiously, there appear to be patched holes on one side of the entrance where the alligator might have been, but I don’t see any on the left side.