The City of Calgary prepares historic Centre Street Bridge lion for a new home
Today, one of the original lion sculptures that adorned the Centre Street Bridge from 1917-1999 begins its journey to a new location, one that will give Calgarians a chance to understand and appreciate the cultural significance of the beloved historic artifact.
Over the next four days, the northeast lion, which has been identified as the lion in the best condition of the remaining three, will be protected and moved to an indoor City facility where it will be repaired and conserved. In spring 2017, marking the 100th anniversary of the original lions being installed on the Centre Street Bridge, the sculpture will be re-located to Rotary Park, overlooking the Centre Street Bridge.
“Displaying one of the historic Centre Street Bridge lion sculptures in a public setting is a poignant tribute to our city’s past,” says Sarah Iley, manager Arts & Culture, The City of Calgary. “The location in Rotary Park allows citizens an opportunity to appreciate the century-old lion sculpture in a new and accessible space where it can be viewed from the Centre Street Bridge, Memorial Drive and in Rotary Park itself.”
Created in 1916 by James L. Thomson, a stonemason and employee of The City, the sculpture measures 12 feet in length, 5 feet wide, 8 feet high, and weighs 13 tons. Appropriate for artisans of the day, each lion was composed of several individual pieces, cast separately using a cement-type mortar, and then spliced together over a metal frame.
Working with experts from many fields to provide the technical expertise to move, repair and re-install the lion safely for the public to enjoy, measures are in place to preserve the sculpture’s structural integrity throughout its journey. These experts include structural engineers, heritage architects, art conservators, material specialists and industrial rigging and moving experts.
The Calgary Heritage Authority has been a mainstay in the discussions since the beginning.
“Repair efforts will primarily focus on stabilizing the lion for installation in the public realm in a way that celebrates its age. Emphasis will be on preserving, conserving and repairing the lion, not on fully restoring it,” says Sarah Meilleur, vice-chair, Calgary Heritage Authority. “The goal is to honour its heritage, paying a genuine and well deserved tribute to the lion as one of Calgary’s artifacts.”