Vancouver Feature: Lions Gate Bridge Opens to Traffic

The following article is a feature from our Vancouver Feature series. Past features are not updated.

The fairy-tale bridge whose image more than any other symbolizes Vancouver was actually built by a beer company to develop its land investment in West Vancouver.

Proposals to build a bridge across the First Narrows were rejected because of the impact it would have on Stanley Park. Plans were defeated in a plebiscite as late as 1927 but when the idea came up during the Great Depression objections were overcome. Not only would building a bridge create jobs in desperate times, but it would be free!

The Guinness family, of brewing fame, had purchased 4000 acres (1600 hectares) of land on the north shore and wanted to attract development there. They would pay for the bridge. (It cost exactly $5,873,837.17.)

Construction began March 31, 1937 and the bridge opened to traffic November 14, 1938. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth presided over the official opening May 29, 1939.

The original bridge had only two lanes, which soon proved inadequate. The two lanes were divided into three, but that has hardly eased the traffic. Nevertheless, the city has resisted dramatic changes to its icon. The Guinness family sold the bridge to the city in 1955 for the same price that they paid to build it.