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Wayne State employees in the Faculty/Administration Building (FAB) and students in the Towers Residential Suites have four new neighbors.

The Fantastic Four — statues of Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, Father Jacques Marquette, Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle and Father Gabriel Richard — have a new home and spruced-up surroundings. The statues were formerly located in front of St. Andrew’s Hall near General Lectures.

“They needed to relocate during construction of the new Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments because of the lay-down area and the need for the construction site to have room to build,” said Fran Ahern, interim senior director for design and construction services in the Office of Facilities Planning and Management. “And if we were going to move them, why not move them to a place where more people can see them?”

Carved in sandstone, the 10-foot figures represent the four French pioneers who helped open up the territory of Michigan and establish Detroit — city founder Cadillac, Jesuit missionary Marquette, explorer de La Salle and Richard, co-founder of the University of Michigan. Richard gave the city its motto, “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus,” which translated into English means, “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.”

Origins of the Fantastic Four


Sculpted by Julius Theodore Melchers, considered Detroit’s foremost sculptor, the Fantastic Four graced the original Detroit City Hall from 1885 until the building was demolished in 1961. Saved and gifted to the university by the Detroit Common Council, they were placed on the Ludington Mall near General Lectures/St. Andrew’s Hall in 1973. Over time, the elements took their toll. In 2010, they celebrated their 125th birthday, with the Women of Wayne Alumni Association supporting their conservation.

According to, Bela Hubbard, a lumber baron, real estate mogul and historian, commissioned Melchers in 1884 to carve “larger than life” sandstone statues of the four pioneers. Architect John M. Donaldson did a model for Marquette; Melchers did the other three.

Melchers emigrated from Germany to Detroit in 1855 after working on the Crystal Palace in London. Known as both a sculptor and a woodcarver, he 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, also a well-known Detroit sculptor, had a house built for his father in Indian Village, which still stands today.

Moving in


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