Lions’ Gate Bridge

Where: Vancouver, BC.

Engineer: Philip L. Pratley

Date of construction: 1938

The Lions Gate Bridge in 1940. (Source: City of Vancouver Archives 586-46)

Site Location: Lat.: 49° – 18’ – 43” N; Long.: 123° – 8’ – 31” W. (GPS: 49.3118619, -123.141858) From the intersection of Granville and West Georgia Streets in downtown Vancouver, head north west on West Georgia Street/BC Highway 99/BC Highway 1A for 4.1 km to the bridge. There is parking in Stanley Park, or under the north side span.

Plaque Location: The plaque is located on the west face of the west abutment of the south end of the bridge, in Stanley Park.

Plaque on west face of west abutment in Stanley Park. (Source: H. Westerink)

Description: Philip L. Pratley (1884-1958) designed the Lions’ Gate Bridge to span the First Narrows of Burrard Inlet, and the Dominion Bridge Co. Ltd. supplied and erected the steel. The bridge, with a main span of 472 m. (1550 ft.), a total length of 1517 m (4977 ft.) and a clearance of 61 m. (200 ft.), opened in 1938. The bridge was constructed privately by the Guinness Family to connect Prospect Point with 4700 acres (1900 ha.) of property in what is now West Vancouver purchased by their British Pacific Properties Limited. Construction was supervised by W.G. Swan (1885-1970), and documented by S.R. Banks. In 1975, the North Viaduct superstructure was replaced and in 2001 the complete structure suspended from the two main cables was replaced.

Ironworker Don Jamieson astride the main cable. He later became a prominent engineer for the Vancouver offices of Dominion Bridge and CANRON. The CSCE Donald Jamieson Fellowship for structural engineering graduate students is named in his honour. (Source: West Vancouver Museum & Archives, George Smith Family Fonds)

Historic Significance: The bridge is the landmark structure of the Vancouver area. A construction innovation was the use of prefabricated strands for the main cables, which were erected in 16 days, instead of the conventional spinning method. Pratley and Dominion Bridge have iconic status across Canada and Swan, co-founder of the Swan-Wooster engineering firm, was prominent in the design and construction of bridge, railway and harbour works in British Columbia. Buckland & Taylor Ltd. designed the North Viaduct and main span replacements, which were carried out incrementally during nighttime closures while remaining open to traffic by day.

Plaque detail. (Source: H. Westerink)

Plaque Wording: National Historic Civil Engineering Site. CSCE. THE LIONS’ GATE BRIDGE. A tribute to the engineers who built and renovated this bridge, the landmark structure of the Vancouver area. When opened in 1938, the 1550 ft. main span was the longest suspension span outside the United States. Design engineer: P. L. Pratley (Monsarrat & Pratley). Steel Contractor: The Dominion Bridge Co. Ltd. The complete structure suspended from the two main cables was replaced in 2001, while remaining open to traffic by day. A world’s first. Design engineers: Buckland & Taylor Ltd. Contractor: American Bridge/Surespan Joint Venture. Owner: The Government of British Columbia. Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 2006.

SCGC. Lieu Historique National du Génie Civil. LE PONT LIONS’ GATE. En hommage aux ingénieurs qui ont construit et rénové ce pont, qui évoque la region de Vancouver. À son inauguration, en 1938, la travée principale de 1550 pieds en faisait le plus long pont suspendu hors des États-Unis. Ingénieur concepteur: P. L. Pratley (Monsarrat & Pratley). Constructeur: The Dominion Bridge Co. Ltd. L’ensemble de la charpente suspendue aux deux câbles principaux a été remplacé en 2001, sans interrompre la circulation pendant la journée. C’était un première mondiale. Ingénieur concepteur: Buckland & Taylor Ltd. Entrepreneur: American Bridge/Surespan Joint Venture. Propriétaire: le gouvernement de la Colombie-Britannique. La société canadienne de genie civil. 2006.

Plaque Unveiling Ceremony: The plaque was unveiled by BC Minister of Highways Kevin Falcon on July 13, 2006. Roger Dorton represented the National History Committee.

Plaque unveiling on July 13, 2006. (Source: BC Ministry of Transportation)

Links to Online Documentation:
Canada’s Historic Places, “Lions Gate Bridge National Historic Site of Canada”.
McCord Museum, “Building a Vancouver Icon: The Lions Gate Bridge”.
Robert W. Passfield, “Philip Louis Pratley (1884-1958): bridge design engineer”, Can. J. Civ. Eng., 2007.
Darryl Matson, “The Lions’ Gate Bridge Suspended Span Replacement”, 2009 Transportation Association of Canada Conference.
BC Ministry of Transportation, “Lions Gate Bridge named a historic engineering site”, 2006.