It was on this day, January 23, 1939 that the two lions on the South end of the Lions Gate Bridge were installed. The two regal figures were created by Charles Marega and were the last commissioned work for this prominent yet struggling Vancouver sculptor.
A letter from Charles Marega about the pieces:
“Thank God I have work now. I am modeling a Lion for Vancouver’s suspension bridge. I had much trouble to get the work. The engineer is from Montreal, and wanted the Lion to modeled in Montreal. But the president of the bridge committee, who is a long-standing friend of mine, and his wife a good friend of mamas, finally assigned the work to me. I would have preferred the Lions to be in bronze or stone – but it has to be cheap – so they will be done in concrete which annoys me, as I could otherwise have made both Lions from one model. However I have to content myself to get work at all.” – letter from Charles Marega dated August 1938 found under the Public Art Registry & in the posession of Marega researcher Peggy Imready.
Looking at some older photos of the lions (like the two directly below) it almost looks as though there are horns or hats on top of the lions’ heads. I haven’t been able to find any record of these and they don’t appear in the 1939 photo at the top of this post. Since both of the following photos were taken on the same day, perhaps decorating the lions is a tradition that is decades old.
Over the years the lions have been a sign of ‘quitting time’ for North Shore commuters, the focus of tourist photos, brought awareness to causes and campaigns through their mysterious get-ups, and provided support for our home teams.
The Lions Gate Bridge was completed in 1938 and was orinally just 2 lanes. It was tolled until the 1960’s although the toll revenue covered the bridge expenses by 1952.