Wayne State University

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Fantastic Four

Sincere Thanks to the Women of Wayne Alumni Association for Their Support of the Conservation of the 'Fantastic Four'

They've guarded the campus for over thirty years and now they are ready to be restored to their original glory. 

The Fantastic Four (also known as Cadillac, deLasalle, Richard and Marquette) are sculptures by Julius Melchers (1829-1908) that graced the original Detroit City Hall from c. 1885 until the building was demolished in 1960.  Saved and gifted to the university by the Detroit Common Council, they were placed on the Ludington Mall near General Lectures in 1973.  Now approaching their 125th birthday, the elements have taken their toll and these sculptures are in need of restoration.

Carved in limestone, these 10-foot figures represent four French pioneers who helped open up the territory of Michigan and establish the city of Detroit.  The statue of Marquette (far left) was carved after a model created by architect John M. Donaldson (1854-1941).  The sculptures are displayed at different heights and in an asymetric design of pedestals, plantings and walls.  Prosaically, when sited in 1973 Cadillac was placed facing south towards the Detroit river. Currently, the quartet can be seen in the round, on a 5 acre, park-like informal setting adjacent to St. Andrews Episcopal Church.

Some considered Julius Theodore Melchers the first sculptor of Detroit.  Melchers immigrated from Germany to Detroit in 1855 after working on the Crystal Palace in London.  He was known as both a sculptor and a woodcarver, having made a partial living by carving cigar-store Indians.  In Prussia he had apprenticed with a sculptor and subsequently studied with leading academic sculptors at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.  Melchers worked in wood, plaster and stone, having a workshop for nearly 40 years which produced architectural sculpture, church carvings, patterns for decorative castings and shop figures.  He conducted classes in drawing and modeling, making a major contribution to fledgling artists in Detroit.  His son Gari Melchers, had a house built for him in Indian Village which still stands today.

Wayne State University is committed to public art on campus and preserving the history of Detroit.  These representations of early Michiganians are a spectacular example of the university's art collection.