As the Lion’s Gate Bridge receives a heritage plaque, a heritage activist recalls the fight to save the bridge from demolition 20 years ago
Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier
Lions Gate Bridge will get a roar of respect July 17 when the Vancouver Heritage Foundation celebrates it with a Places that Matter plaque.
Donald Luxton, author and president of the heritage society that pushed for the gateway bridge’s preservation in the 1990s, will talk about its heritage and architecture at the event.
“I’m amazed it’s still there,” Luxton said on the phone from a flood-devastated High River, Alta., Monday afternoon.
In 1993, the provincial government announced it would demolish the deteriorating bridge. Luxton and Heritage Vancouver battled this decision for five years.
“My contention from day one is if you walk down Robson Street and look at what’s on the postcards and what’s on the baseball caps and what people think of as Vancouver, that this bridge is our icon,” he said.
It was eventually determined the bridge’s roadbed had deteriorated, not the entire structure, so, for the first time in suspension bridge history, the bridge deck was replaced while traffic continued to use the crossing.
Walk-on ferries had run from Gastown to Moodyville and its sawmills in North Vancouver starting in 1866. The first bridge across the Second Narrows was completed in 1925 but a barge knocked out this low-lying structure in 1930. It was repaired and reopened in 1934.
Due to the Depression, governments had no money to build another bridge in 1930 so Alfred J.T. Taylor, a prominent engineering contractor turned real estate developer for whom Taylor Way in West Vancouver is named, developed a scheme to save the municipality from bankruptcy and build a bridge. The Guinness brewing family agreed to purchase 4,700 acres of British Properties land in exchange for $1 million in improvements over the next five years and to finance the bridge, according to the British Properties website.
Lions Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the British Empire when it opened in 1938.
The plaque presentation starts at 2:30 p.m. on the overpass before Prospect Point in Stanley Park, near the miniature lions that match the art deco lions at the end of the bridge. Members of the Guinness family and the British Properties board of directors will attend.
The event will be the 63rd plaque presentation of the Heritage Foundation’s 125 Vancouver Places that Matter.