The University Record, July 30, 1997

New book on Law Quad provides armchair tour for readers

The library in the Law Quad has many distinct architectural features. Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

The Law Quadrangle. Many have noted the architecture, decorative carvings and the history of the structure and its interior. Millions have walked past it. Hundreds of thousands have walked through it. More than 17,000 Law School graduates have studied and attended classes there.

For those who cherish memories, as well as the curious, a new U-M Press book by Ann Arbor author Kathryn Horste, The Michigan Law Quadrangle: Architecture and Origins, takes the reader on an armchair tour of the Quad. Through text and photographs, it details unusual and little-known facts about the structure, its history, its design and the donor who made it all possible. From stone carvings to chandeliers to tapestries and furniture, Horste explains the why and how.

"Perhaps the most popular bits of Gothic-style decoration in the entire Law Quadrangle are the amusing sculptured figures who crouch beneath the weight of the vault ribs on the interior of each of the three entrance passages into the Quad," Horste writes. "Set only slightly above eye level, the unexpectedness of their presence is part of their fascination."

Six of the figures in the "Tower" entrance (on South University near State Street) have the facial features of past U-M presidents, including James B. Angell, Harry B. Hutchins, Marion L. Burton, Henry P. Tappan, Erastus O. Haven and Henry S. Frieze. This entrance also features sculptures of seasonal activities such as grape-gathering, grain-harvesting and football.

The man who made all this possible was William Wilson Cook, a graduate of the Law School class of 1882. The Hillsdale native entered the U-M after attending public schools in Hillsdale and the preparatory department of Hillsdale College.

The wheels for building a dormitory, dining facility and Lawyers' Club were set in motion in the early 1920s and the project was finished in 1933. With his legal practice in New York City, Horste writes that "Cook never visited the Law Quadrangle himself, either during or after completion of any of its buildings, and he turned aside all urgings that he do so."

t is within this medieval Gothic-style quadrangle, Horste writes, that Cook "envisioned a living/working situation in which law students, thriving through their easy contacts with faculty, with distinguished lecturers and practitioners of the law, and with one another, would forge early personal and professional relationships that would serve them for the whole of their professional careers."

Housed within the Quad is the Cook Library, a re-creation of Cook's personal library in his Manhattan home. The room is used as a study for visiting scholars and for small meetings and luncheons.

"The dominant features are the floor-to-ceiling oak wainscoting and a dramatic glazed skylight," Horste writes. "A great chandelier with swags of dripping glass beads and faceted oval drops is suspended from the center of the skylight."

Wooden bookshelves with glass fronts line the walls, but no law books are housed here. Instead there are volumes of Shakespeare, Jules Verne and the Waverly novels. Several small works of art from Cook's Manhattan library also are in the room.