Ever wonder about the history of The Lions Gate Bridge? Below you will find excerpts from various publications including Wikipedia as it relates to this iconic West Vancouver monument.
The Lions Gate Bridge, opened in 1938, officially known as the First Narrows Bridge, is a suspension that crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet and connects the City of Vancouver, BC to the North Shore municipalities of the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver. The term "Lions Gate" refers to The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver.
The total length of the bridge including the north viaduct is 1,823m (5,890 ft), the tower height is 111 m (364 ft), and it has a ship's clearance of 61 m (200 ft). Prospect Point in Stanley Park offered a good high south end to the bridge, but the low flat delta land to the north required construction of the extensive North Viaduct.
Starting about 1890, bridge builders saw that a bridge across the first narrows was becoming a possibility. There were a number who argued against its construction, as many felt it would ruin Stanley Park or cause problems for the busy seaport or that it would take toll revenue away from the Second Narrows Bridge. However, many others saw it as necessary in order to open up development on the North Shore and it was felt that these problems could be overcome. The decision was put to the electorate of Vancouver in 1927, but the first plebiscite was defeated and the idea was put to rest for a short while.
Alfred James Towle Taylor, who had been part of this proposal and still owned the provincial franchise to build the bridge, did not have the finances to purchase the necessary large sections of property in North Vancouver and West Vancouver. However, he was able to convince the Guiness family (of the Irish beer fame) to invest in the land on the north shore of Burrard Inlet. They purchased 4,700 acres (16 km²) of West Vancouver mountainside through a syndicate called British Pacific Properties Ltd.
On December 13, 1933, a second plebiscite was held and this time, it was passed by a 2 to 1 margin. After considerable further negotiations with the federal government, approval was finally granted, with the requirement that Vancouver materials and workmen be used as much as possible to provide employment during the Great Depression.
The bridge was designed by the Montreal firm Monsarrat and Pratley and construction began on March 31, 1937. After one and a half years and a cost of $5,873,837 (CAD), it opened to traffic on November 14, 1938.
On May 29, 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth presided over the official opening during a royal visit to Canada. A toll of 25 cents was charged for each car.
The newly constructed bridge differed from the current configuration of the bridge as it originally had only two lanes. Yet, as had been foreseen, West Vancouver’s population boomed as a result of the new connection. Thus, to accommodate the increased population, the lanes were divided into three with the middle lane acting as a passing lane. Another difference with the original configuration was that in an effort to recover the expenditure it cost to build the bridge, the Guinness family had toll booths installed. The toll booths remained on the bridge until 1963, at which time the bridge was purchased by the provincial government for the same price that it took to build it. Changes were made shortly after the takeover, as the tolls were removed and the overhead lane controls were added. The Guinnesses’ last involvement with the bridge happened in 1986, when they added lights to the bridge as an Expo '86 gift.
Jesse Dean Cook