Jørgen Christian Hansen Dreyer
1878-1948
Once recognized by The Kansas City Star as the city’s leading sculptor, Jorgen Dreyer’s works are seen daily by thousands of Kansas Citians, although he has slipped into anonymity. Dreyer’s stone lionesses still guard the entrance to the Kansas City Life Insurance building at Armour Boulevard and Broadway and his massive sphinxes watch over the Scottish Rite Temple at Linwood Boulevard and The Paseo.

Jorgen Dreyer was born in Tromso, Norway, in 1878 and studied at the Latin school there and at the Royal School of Art and Industries in Oslo. He showed early promise as a sculptor when, as a child, he playfully modeled a life- size snow figure that clearly resembled one of his professors.

When Jorgen had finished his 10th year in the art school at home and was hesitating whether or not to go to Paris to begin his career, he received a letter from his sister who had married and gone to live in Topeka, Kan. The letter told of the wealth of the country, the shortage of artists, especially sculptors, the awakening interest in art and the dire need of it. So the young sculptor decided to try this venture, rather than go to the already overcrowded city of Paris. Jorgen came to this country in 1903 and made Kansas City his home for more than 40 years.

From 1907 to 1909, Dreyer taught at the Fine Arts Institute, the forerunner of the Kansas City Art Institute. The years that followed included a number of public and private commissions that spread Dreyer’s works across the city.

The Kansas City Life Insurance lionesses were completed in 1924. They were modeled after lions at the Swope Park Zoo and carved of granite, measuring nearly 11 feet long and 5 feet high. The Scottish Rite Temple sphinxes were completed in 1928 and weigh 20,000 pounds apiece. Each of the two female heads atop lion bodies with griffin details wears a medallion that represents the Masonic order.

Dreyer also sculpted a bust of John Barber White in 1915, now located in the Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections Room, and figures that adorn the Jensen Salsbery Laboratories building, designed in 1918 by Ernest Brostrom. Other works include marble figures carved for the Rose Hill Cemetery Mausoleum in 1931, the figure of Dawn above the south entrance to the Phillips House in 1932, The Atlas figures on the McQueeny building at  520 West Pennway,  and bronze plaques, designed in 1936, located above the north entrance doors of the Jackson County Courthouse. Jorgen Dreyer (70) died at his home, at 3721 Michigan, Kansas City, MO, of a heart ailment at 5:00 am on November 17, 1948. He was survived by his wife, Lorena. Interred: Elmwood Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.