Calgary

One of Calgary's historic Centre Street lions has a new perch in Rotary Park

After more than 80 years guarding downtown Calgary, one of the iconic Centre Street Bridge lions has a new perch overseeing the city's downtown — and its old home — from Rotary Park.

The lion sat on the bridge from 1917 until 1999

The century-old lion sculpture overlooks its former home on Calgary's Centre Street Bridge from its new perch in Rotary Park. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

After more than 80 years guarding downtown Calgary, one of the iconic Centre Street Bridge lions has a new perch overseeing the city's downtown — and its old home — from Rotary Park.

A lion dance, and a tour from historian Harry Sanders welcomed the big cat to the park on Saturday where Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Coun. Druh Farrell were also on hand.

The lions were removed from the bridge in 1999 when it was closed for renovations, and an assessment found they weren't safe to be reinstalled — so instead, new lions were cast for the bridge.

"We're so excited to welcome the Centre Street Bridge lion to its new home in Rotary Park," Jennifer Thompson, public art lead with the City of Calgary.

One of the original lions is on display in front of city hall, and the other two remain in storage.

The city worked with experts including structural engineers, heritage architects, art conservators, and material specialists to repair and restore the leonine sculpture.

The lion, which was created in 1916-17 by stonemason James L. Thomson, was one of four created to resemble the bronze lions at the base of the Nelson monument in London's Trafalgar Square.

It's 3.3-metres long, and weighs 9,979 kilograms.

The lion sculpture was restored before being relocated to its new Rotary Park home. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

It was cast in five sections, and has no steel frame — instead, the concrete segments were reinforced with rebar and connected with mortar.

Thompson said the city had looked at installing the lion along the West LRT line, but Calgarians called for it to be installed in a place where they could observe it up close.

"I think what they'll enjoy the most about the lion is the fact that Calgary really came out and spoke out for having the lion in a place where it's accessible, and it a place where it has a connection to the Centre Street Bridge," she said.

With files from Anis Heydari.

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