What’s Up With the Gargoyles?


Jules Conners

Boulder High is the oldest high school in Colorado.

The City of Boulder is an eclectic place, so it’s only fitting that the gargoyles at Boulder High are as much. These nude, gargoyle-like statues keep watch over Boulder High, yet most students don’t know the full story of our unique and somewhat controversial sculptures. 

In the late 1930s, Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, and Jupiter, the god of strength in Roman mythology were sculpted by Marvin Martin. His sculptures were unusual for the 30s, for most were muscular, in the nude and frankly startling. Freelance History Columnist from the Daily Camera, Carol Taylor, writes, “Marvin Martin was commissioned for the project because he knew one of the architects of Boulder High, Earl Morris. Morris and Martin had previously worked together. At the time, Martin was considered a talented up and coming young sculptor.”

Rightfully, many skeptics of the sculptors see nudity as controversial and vulgar, especially outside a school building: “Some citizens thought the nudity was offensive and would corrupt our high school youth. Others thought the style was grotesque and vulgar. Bulbous, ugly, and hideous were other words used to describe the pieces. Just as many defended the artist and his creations, calling them the best in modern art” notes Taylor. 

In 1937, these skeptics took their issue to the school board, which voted for the removal of these controversial sculptures. According to Taylor, “[A]rt supporters spoke out and called the actions of the board an insult to the intelligent people of Boulder. Martin was given a hearing before the board to defend his work. When things calmed down, the school board decided to leave the sculptures in place.” 

James Garfield Gonzales wrote the placard outside Boulder High detailing the history of Minnie and Jake. “Tradition soon evolved where the new sophomores (called “onies”) and new teachers were asked to bow in submission to Minnie and Jake in a ritual ceremony. The ceremony took place during the first week of school each year. This ritual signified official recognition of the newcomers and boosted class and school spirit. Over the years, this custom became ingrained into the ethos of BHS.” This tradition has now been long forgotten and with that, the tale of Minnie and Jake. 

This tradition is weird, to say the least, but it’s something that at its core is uniquely Boulder High. Once a staple of the school, the tradition is now nearly forgotten. In 1963, Marvin Martin died of a stroke, and with that, his rich legacy is left behind. 

The history of Boulder High is something unparalleled by any other school in Colorado. Now when you walk inside Boulder High each day, hopefully, you can recall the importance of the gargoyles that tower above the front doors of your school.