The 100-foot-tall Memorial Arch, erected in memory of Leland Stanford Junior in 1899, soared over the entry to the Main Quadrangle for a short period during the university’s early years. The upper section of the Arch contained two observation rooms, with narrow windows through which the Inner Quad could be seen. A circular iron stairway inside one of the arch columns was used to reach the upper levels. In 1902, a 12-foot-high frieze, “The Progress of Civilization in America,” was completed at the top of the Arch. One of the idealized frieze panels depicted Leland and Jane Stanford on horseback, mapping a course over the Sierra Nevada for the Central Pacific Railroad.
The Memorial Arch crumbled during the 1906 earthquake. Because the work it would take to repair the Arch and protect it from future damage was extensive and expensive, the Board of Trustees decided not to reconstruct it. The top of the Arch was dismantled and the bases capped with pyramidal red tile roofs. Today, the two bases and the dedication plaque carved into the sandstone are all that remain of the original monument.