Nearly a year to the day after the rehabilitated Bridge of Lions reopened to traffic, its namesake statues will return home.
The two marble lion statues, which stood at the western approach to the bridge from its opening in 1927 until the work on the bridge began in 2005, will be returned to their home during the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 15. The project is scheduled to commence at 2:00am. In order to ensure sufficient time for the completion of the project, the Bridge of Lions is scheduled to be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic from 2:00am until 6:00am. The roadway will be reopened sooner if the project is completed before 6:00am.
The only road closure will be the Bridge of Lions itself, although temporary detours may be implemented as determined necessary by the St. Augustine Police Department. If inclement weather prevents the project from going forth on March 15, the plan is to relocate the statues during the same timeframe the following day, Wednesday March 16. If such is the case, notices will be made through the local media and electronic signs placed at the east and west approaches.
Spectator areas will be set aside for those who wish to witness the return. Note that no pedestrians will be allowed access from Anastasia Island via the Bridge of Lions during the project since doing so would have those pedestrians walking into the project site. Those traveling from Anastasia Island will have to use State Road 312.
The statues were removed on February 17, 2005, by the City of St. Augustine, their owners, just prior to the start of the bridge’s rehabilitation work, and placed in storage for safe keeping. While in storage the City took advantage of their being in a controlled environment to have them restored. The Florida Department of Transportation provided a grant of $40,000 for the relocation, storage and restoration of the statues. The restoration work was done by
Enzo Torcoletti and Joe Segal, of St. Augustine’s Moultrie Creek Studios. The project is managed by the City’s General Services Department and the relocation will be handled by Southeastern Rigging & Storage, Orlando, a company experienced in the relocation of both large objects and fine art.
As it turns out, the date is just two days shy of the anniversary of the rehabilitated bridge’s opening to traffic on March 17, 2010.
After the lions are back in place the Bridge of Lions project will still not be complete and won’t be until the installation of landscaping in parks on both the east and west approaches to the bridge as well as Ponce and Anderson Circles. That work will continue through the spring after which there is likely to be a ceremony recognizing the completion of the entire project. Details and dates are yet to be finalized.
The lions were a gift in 1926 to the city from Dr. Andrew Anderson, a native of St. Augustine who became a close friend of Henry Flagler and served as the city’s Mayor in 1886. Anderson is responsible for a number of public monuments in the city including the statue of Ponce de Leon which stands in the small park just east of the Plaza and the flag pole and monument base just to the north of the Ponce statue.
So while reinstalling the statues is essentially a special project requiring planning, adherence to established safety guidelines, and careful management by the General Service Department, it is nonetheless a project of great interest to the community. Since the time of day is not spectator-friendly, and the area where the installation is taking place will be restricted, the city asks the community’s support and cooperation of the operation by waiting to welcome the lions until later in the day after they have returned home.
Six Ways to Celebrate the Return of the Lions
1. Honk your car horn as you cross the bridge and see the lions for the first time. Probably going to be a little noisy on Tuesday.
2. Before Tuesday, visit the site where the statues will be placed and have your photo made there without the lions, then return later and take a photo with the lions.
3. If you know a child born after February 17, 2005, or a friend who has moved here since that date, take him or her to visit the statues for the first time in their lives.
4. Watch the “Lion King,” or “Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion,” or the start of any MGM movie and look for resemblances to St. Augustine’s lions.
5. At the family dinner table, make a list of three things that have changed in the last six years and share the information with the lions. They really missed a lot during their hibernation.
6. Flood Facebook with comments and photos and tweet your first impressions with the hash tag #bridgeoflions so the world may share your excitement.
A Bridge of Lions Video
There is a brief video (< 3 min) of the relocation of the lion statues on February 17, 2005 on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUNfqMNnAj0.
For more information contact the Public Affairs Department at 904.825.1053 or 904.824.1004.