Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge spans Burrard Inlet at First Narrows, connecting Stanley Park and Vancouver centre to the north shore. It is a suspension bridge, that is, a roadway suspended from huge cables saddled on high towers and securely anchored into the banks at either end of the bridge. With a 473-m main span, Lions Gate Bridge is one of the longest bridges in Canada. It is comparable in length to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The beauty of the bridge, named for the twin peaks in the North Shore Mountains, has made it an iconic symbol of Vancouver.

The city of Vancouver long resisted the idea of building a bridge across the First Narrows because of the impact it would have on Stanley Park. Citizens defeated the idea in a plebiscite in 1927. The driving force behind overcoming these objections was Alfred James Towie Taylor, an engineer who had built various large projects in British Columbia. In 1926 Taylor moved to England where he persuaded the Guinness brewing family to finance a residential suburb in West Vancouver. In order to develop these "British Properties" the Guinness family offered to pay for a bridge, linking Vancouver to the north shore. The fact that the bridge would not cost the city money and that its construction would create jobs during the desperate times of the Great Depression proved irresistible.

Construction began 31 March 1937. Canada's leading bridge architects at the time, Montreal's Monsarrat & Pratley, designed the span, which was inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Its elegance and spectacular views have won accolades ever since. One innovation in the construction of the bridge was the use of prefabricated strands for the suspension cables. An American firm supplied the wires, which were twisted into cable strands by a company in Quebec and then delivered to the site on wooden spools. Bridge workers then hoisted the cable strands into place over the tower saddles and tightened them with wrenches.

The Guinness family paid exactly $5,873,837.17 to build the bridge and sold it for that same amount to the city in 1955. The bridge opened to traffic 14 November 1938. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth presided over the official opening 29 May 1939. The shrewd visionary, A.J.T. Taylor, the man who inspired the bridge, was not present at the royal opening. The Guinness' last involvement with the bridge came in 1986, when they added lights to the bridge as a gift to the city during Expo 86.

Even though the two lanes on the original bridge were later divided into three, the bridge remains inadequate to the growing traffic. Nevertheless, the city has resisted dramatic changes to its icon.