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Original Centre Street Bridge Lion Project

 
There will be a community celebration to welcome the Centre Street Bridge lion on Saturday, September 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m​. at Rotary Park. The event will feature family-friendly events, face painting, a tour from Harry the Historian, and a lion dance presented by the Chinatown BIA. Speeches start at noon, and the history tour starts at 1:15 p.m. The event takes place at 3rd Ave and 1st NE. Everyone is welcome!
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Title of Artwork: Original Centre Street Bridge Lion
Original Artist: James Thomson
Medium: Concrete
Site: Rotary Park Summer 2018

Rendering of Rotary Park Lion Installation
Rendering of Rotary Park Lion Installation

The Centre Street Bridge lions are a vital example of Calgary's artistic and engineering history. Conserving an original Centre Street Bridge lion is a way for us to remember and celebrate our history, while preserving a valuable piece of art from Calgary's past. This piece of art will be enjoyed by Calgarians for generations, in a way that is accessible for everyone.

Project Details

The lion from the northeast side of the Centre Street Bridge was chosen and taken in for repairs and conservation. The preserved lion will be displayed in Rotary Park, on the bluff overlooking Centre Street Bridge. From this location, Calgarians can view the original preserved lion in the park and the recast replacement lions on the bridge.

Arrested decay conservation
Arrested decay conservation

Arrested Decay Conservation Approach

The original lion sculpture from the Centre Street bridge has been conserved to remain in a state of "arrested decay". This means the lion is displayed to show its age and history through preserving the visual indicators of wear such as cracks and weathering from exposure to the elements.

New Location

Rotary Park is the new home of a Centre Street Bridge original lion. It gives Calgarians the chance to view and enjoy the century-old sculpture in a fresh location that is accessible to everyone. It also shows the connection between our city's past, present and future. The original lion now overlooks the recast bridge lions on Centre Street Bridge. The best way to enjoy the preserved Centre Street Bridge lion is to visit it in Rotary Park. You can see and experience a valuable and artistic piece of our city's history, while also viewing where it came from-and the newly cast lions that now sit on the Centre Street Bridge.

Background

The original Centre Street Bridge lions were created in the likeness of the bronze lions at the base of the Nelson monument in London's Trafalgar Square. Over the years, the lions grew to be well-known symbols of Calgary's strength, integrity and independent character. They were extremely beloved by our citizens.

Northeast lion moved for conservation work
Northeast lion moved for conservation work

Engagement

In 2013 Council asked that the original Centre Street Bridge lions be part of the West LRT public art process. After public consultation, the community engagement on this idea, there was a lack of strong public support for incorporating the lions into the West LRT and Rotary Park was chosen as the new location.

Timeline Summary

  • 1916 - Centre Street Bridge built.
  • 1917 - Original four concrete lions installed on bridge.
  • 1970s/80s - Lions undergo major repairs.
  • 1992 - Centre Street Bridge with lions designated a municipal historic resource.
  • 1993 - Lions added to Public Art Collection.
  • 1999 - Centre Street Bridge closed for major renovations, condition of lions assessed as deteriorating.
  • 2000 - Council directs the repair, preservation and public display of the southwest lion and that it be used to make four new lions.
  • 2000 - New lions recast from an original and reinstalled on bridge.
  • 2003 - Original lion that was used as a mold, placed outside Municipal Building.
  • 2013 - Council directs remaining original lions be incorporated into West LRT public art.
  • 2014 - Community engagement shows lack of strong public support for using lions in West LRT public art, new direction is taken.
  • 2018 - One original lion to be repaired, conserved and displayed in Rotary Park. Remaining two lions are in storage to protect and preserve them for foreseeable future.

Public Art Budget: The budget came from both the West LRT public art budget, and the Public Art Reserve which funds the maintenance and preservation of Calgary's Public Art Collection.
Project Completion: Summer 2018​​​​​