The Three Bears
The sculpture of the Three Bears that now rests on the first floor of the Gateway Building has served as an unofficial mascot and symbol for the MCV Hospitals for more than sixty years.
Dr. William T. Sanger, President of the Medical College of Virginia from 1925 to 1956, saw the original sculpture of the bear group in January of 1940. The bears, created by noted American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, were displayed at Brookgreen Gardens, the renowned sculpture garden and nature retreat created in South Carolina by Huntington and her husband Archer Milton Huntington. Sanger thought the bears would make a nice addition to the entrance court for the new Medical College of Virginia Hospital on Broad Street that opened in January of 1941. Huntington agreed to make a copy of the bears and she and her husband donated the sculpture to the Medical College of Virginia on October 9, 1941. The copy of the bears was cast in stone, not the original gray bronze because the metal was unavailable due to the war conditions in Europe.
Sanger believed the bears were an appropriate subject for a sculpture at a medical institution. The American bear is considered the strongest of the indigenous North American animals. Native Americans have longed viewed the bear as a symbol of strength and healing. During times of sickness members of some tribes worshipped the bear while others regarded the bear as divine preserver. Early European colonists also found medicinal properties associated with the bear and used meat and broth from the animal to nourish the sick.
The bears came to Richmond from Huntington's studio in New Jersey and moved into their specially designed court area at the corner of 12th and Broad Streets. Charles F. Gillette, a local landscape architect, and Robert A. Baillie, the sculpture curator from Brookgreen Gardens, supervised the placing of the bears and the landscaping of the court area. From 1941 until the spring of 1987, the bears watched over Broad Street and the entrance to the MCV West Hospital. In 1987, the bears were moved to the ground-level lobby of Main Hospital to ensure their long-term preservation. During the construction of the Gateway Building the Bears were moved out of the old lobby of the Main Hospital to a temporary location, and moved to the second level of that building in February of 2002. Since October of 2008 they have been keeping watch on the main concourse of the Critical Care Hospital by the eponymous Three Bears Gift Shop, where visitors may see them today.