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.
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
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.