STEELE HS MASCOT
Leo the Lion, the bronze sculpture that keeps watch from the Dayton Art Institute, originally was the mascot for a downtown high school. The mascot, which stood guard over Steele High School at the corner of Main Street and Monument Avenue, was the brainchild of the school’s decorative arts department. According to a Dayton Daily News article published at the 1908 unveiling, it took 10 years and a combination of fundraisers, including a monthly five cent donation from the students, to come up with the funds for the statue. Sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt, an animalier, was commissioned to create the icon. She studied and made sketches of “Sultan,” a black African lion housed at New York’s Bronx Park Zoo, before creating a one-fourth-sized model. The artist, who donated her skills to the school, traveled to Naples, Italy in 1907, to supervise the bronze casting of the lion at a local foundry. In 1913, raging flood water knocked the lion from its pedestal, breaking his tail and destroying the base he stood on. The community rallied and raised funds to reinstate the statue and, in the fall, held another dedication. The mascot kept watch over generations of Dayton students as they entered Steele High School. In 1955, after the school had closed, Leo was moved to his current home perched outside the Dayton Art Institute overlooking the skyline.