Leopard back on guard

Kevin McLean, a College of Charleston art graduate, rebuilt the leopard sculpture that was destroyed by vandals two years ago at the Peoples Building downtown at Broad and East Bay Streets.

A Charleston landmark destroyed by vandals is back.

One of two leopard statues that guarded the entrance to the People's Building on Broad Street has been re-created and replaced.

The crouching animal was knocked over and smashed on the sidewalk in June 2011.

Steve Peck, president of Community Management Group, which is in charge of the building at 18 Broad St., said that after the incident there was brief hope that the culprit might return the head and shoulders that were taken away.

As time passed and that didn't happen, the building's tenants decided to pitch in and create another one.

With the help of College of Charleston art student Kevin McLean, a rubber mold was made of the surviving leopard and the missing cat was duplicated. One change was that the ears were made more pronounced with clay, said McLean, who graduated with a degree in sculpture and is now a finisher with the light fixture business Urban Electric Co.

The new leopard was cast with crushed marble dust with a cement binder to keep it together.

McLean conceded that until the leopard project came around, he had done "nothing on that scale," in terms of the big cat's size. "It was a lot more time and effort than I thought would be required."

To stave off any future problems, the second guardian leopard (which wasn't damaged in 2011) was also replaced with a new model. The original was moved inside for protection.

It took a forklift and hoist to get both statues into place, as each weighs between 350 and 400 pounds. The cost to replicate the figures wasn't released. The pair was put back in view a few weeks ago.

The original leopards have a long history in the city. After the building was purchased by the Southeastern Securities Co. in the 1930s, company President Charles L. Mullaly opted to install the marble leopards outside the main entrance. They were made of Italian marble by an unknown 18th-century artist, according to CMG's website, and were brought to Charleston from an estate near Boston.

Both had been in place since 1957.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551