Bob Cassilly

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bob Cassilly
Bob Cassilly in 2008.jpg
Bob Cassilly working on a dragon sculpture at Trailnet RiverView Park in St. Louis in 2008.
Born(1949-11-09)November 9, 1949
DiedSeptember 26, 2011(2011-09-26) (aged 61)
Alma materFontbonne University
OccupationSculptor, Entrepreneur, and Creative director
Known forFounder, City Museum

Robert James Cassilly Jr. (November 9, 1949 – September 26, 2011) was an American sculptor, entrepreneur, and creative director based in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1997, Cassilly founded the idiosyncratic City Museum, which draws over 700,000 visitors a year[1] and is one of the city's leading tourist attractions.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Cassilly was born in Webster Groves, Missouri, to a homemaker and a building contractor.[2] He began skipping school by age 14 to work as an apprentice for a local sculptor, Rudolph Torrini.[2] Cassilly graduated from Vianney High School, then earned a bachelor's degree in art from Fontbonne University in St. Louis.[2]


While at Fontbonne University, Cassilly met and married his first wife, painter and printmaker Cecelia Davidson. In May 1972, the couple honeymooned in Rome. They were visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City when Laszlo Toth attacked Michelangelo's The Pieta. Cassilly was the first to act and subdued Toth.[4]

While living in St. Louis, Cassily and Davidson restored over 36 dilapidated Victorian buildings. These restorations led to the construction of six townhouses, for which he designed the architectural flourishes.[2] The project led Cassilly to start making sculptures professionally.[2] He soon became known for his public pieces that depict animals such as turtles and hippos.[2] The couple also built and ran a restaurant in Lafayette Square.

Eventually, they sold the restaurant, which allowed them to move to Hawaii, where Cassily carved wooden figures.[2]

Cassilly reportedly grew tired of Hawaii, returned to his native St. Louis, and earned a master's degree in art at his alma mater, Fontbonne. There, he met sculptor Gail Soliwoda, whose works include the limestone monument at the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area. Cassilly divorced Davidson and married Soliwoda.

Cassilly and Soliwoda became business partners.[2] In 1993, they bought a 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) complex, which included the International Shoe Building, offices and a 10-story warehouse, for 69 cents per square foot.[2] They renovated the site and opened it in 1997 as the City Museum, helping to spark a renovation boom in downtown St. Louis.[5] The museum includes a shoelace factory, a fire truck, two airplanes, and a Ferris wheel on the roof.[2] The Project for Public Spaces listed the museum among the "Great Public Spaces in the World" in 2005.[2][6] In 2002, financial obligations forced Cassilly to begin charging visitors a fee to park at the museum. Cassilly hung a sign in the museum's parking lot reading, "Greedy Bob’s Parking Lot."[2]

Cassilly's other works include hippopotamus statues installed at Hippo Playground in Manhattan's Riverside Park in 1993.[2] In 1997, Cassilly also contributed hippo sculptures to Central Park's Safari Playground near W. 91 Street.[2][3][7] He designed two turtles for Turtle Park in St. Louis.[5] A giant concrete butterfly, called the Mysterious Monarch, was unveiled in Faust Park outside the Butterfly House, Missouri Botanical Garden in 1997 in Chesterfield, Missouri.[3] Cassilly's giraffe statue, which stands at the entrance to the Dallas Zoo, is the tallest sculpture in Texas at 67½ feet tall.[2][8] His works for the St. Louis Zoo include the Sea Lion Fountains and a 45-foot squid statue.[2]

In 2000, Cassilly began work on Cementland, a repurposing of a former cement factory on a 54-acre (220,000 m2) site in north St. Louis.[2][5]

In 2002, Cassilly and Soliwoda divorced.[2]

Commissioned sculptures[edit]

  • 1987-1989 dinosaur for Planet Hollywood West-end in Dallas. "Big-Tex Rex" now resides in Amarillo, Texas, at the Big Texan Steak Ranch
  • 1987: Marlin Perkins bust at the St. Louis Zoo[3]
  • 1991: Six lighted entry markers at the St. Louis Galleria[3]
  • 1993: Hippo playground sculptures in Manhattan's Riverside Park[3]
  • 1996: Turtle Park sculptures in St. Louis' Forest Park[3]
  • 1997: Hippopotamus Park statues at Central Park's Safari Playground in Manhattan[3]
  • 1997: Giraffe statue at the Dallas Zoo
  • 1998: Mysterious Monarch [1] and Lopatapillar [2] at Faust Park in Chesterfield, Missouri[3]
  • 1999: Sea Lion Fountains at the St. Louis Zoo[3]
  • Dinosaur at Dallas Planet Hollywood
  • Ruins at Bush Gardens Virginia, Roman Rapids ride
  • Apple chairs, Webster Groves, Missouri


On September 26, 2011, Cassilly died at Cementland. A police investigation found that he died of injuries after the bulldozer he was driving flipped down a hill.[9][10] In October 2016, however, medical expert Dr. Arthur Combs concluded that Cassilly had been beaten to death, and the bulldozer accident staged.[11]

Cassily was survived by his third wife, Melissa Giovanna Zompa, and their two children, Dylan and Robert III; and two children from his second marriage, Daisy and Max.[2]


  1. ^ Dougherty, Connor (May 1, 2010). "This Museum Exposes Kids to Thrills, Chills and Trial Lawyers". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2015-06-11. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Martin, Douglas (2011-09-29). "Bob Cassilly, Playscape Creator Fueled by Whimsy, Dies at 61". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Toroian Keaggy, Diane (2011-09-27). "Cassilly's inner child was never far from the surface". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  4. ^ Schlafly, Tom (2011-09-29). "Remembering Bob Cassilly". St. Louis Public Radio. Archived from the original on 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  5. ^ a b c Summers-Sparks, Matthew (August 25, 2007). "One Part Cement, Two Parts Whimsy, One Odd Park". New York Times: Art & Design.
  6. ^ "PPS's The City Museum". Archived from the original on 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
  7. ^ "Safari Playground". Central Park Conservancy. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  8. ^ "Bob Cassilly's sculptures included Dallas Zoo giraffe". Dallas Morning News. 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  9. ^ "City Museum founder killed in bulldozer accident". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 26, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  10. ^ Currier, Joe (2011-09-27). "Cassilly found dead at site he worked on for years". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  11. ^ Fenske, Sarah. "Bob Cassilly Was Beaten to Death, Medical Expert Concludes". Riverfront Times. Riverfront Times. Retrieved 11 October 2016.