By Nancy Spitler
Photography by Craig Mahaffey ’98
Illustrations by Chris Koelle

“These fantastic exaggerations smile down in unholy glee or frown with devilish intent upon all who pass by, and seem to issue a flagrant challenge to the unwary student to meet and overcome the obstacles in his chosen profession” — that’s how the April 10, 1929, issue of The Tiger describes the somewhat humorous faces that peer down at you from between the
third-story windows of Riggs Hall.

These grotesques began as clay models created by Rudolph Edward “Pop” Lee and were carved by the H.R. Hupffman Company of Atlanta. They are based on the likenesses of different faculty members at the college in 1925, with the grotesque representing architecture probably modeled after Lee himself.

A member of Clemson’s first graduating class in 1896, Lee served on the faculty from 1896-1948. He began his career as a tutor and went on (with postgraduate work at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania) to become a professor of drawing and architectural engineering. He founded Clemson’s architecture department and led it until he retired in 1948. He was the principal designer of campus buildings (including Riggs) from 1920 until the early 1940s. Lee Hall is named in his honor.

“These fantastic exaggerations smile down in unholy glee or frown with devilish intent upon all who pass by, and seem to issue a flagrant challenge to the unwary student to meet and overcome the obstacles in his chosen profession.”

4 replies
  1. david mclain says:

    This is amazing. I spent my Clemson student life in that building and I love the illustration for the article.

    How do I get a copy of the illustration by Chris Koelle?

    Reply
  2. Harry Miller says:

    I enjoyed this article very much. I spent a lot of time in Riggs and often wondered about these grotesques. It would be great if you could provide more details about them, e.g., who each of them represents, what they taught, etc. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Larry Harris says:

    There’s got to be a decent sized pool of ECE alumni that would be willing to donate to a fund to have a grotesque of H. Vernon Poe made and installed.

    Reply
  4. Kay Wolfe says:

    What a fantastic article. Somehow, I have never noticed these grotesques on Riggs. Thank you for the article. I will be sure to swing by Riggs next time I’m on campus.

    Reply

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