“Hi, I’m the Golden Lion (capital letters out of respect, please), the life-size venerable gold-painted sculpture that’s the mascot of the North York Historical Society (NYHS).
“Columnist Susan Goldenberg loaned me this column space to announce that after many years of wandering, I’m now in permanent residence on the North York Central Library’s fifth floor in a splendid glass case near the staircase and soon-to-be-opened North York History Room.
“The Golden Lion Hotel, at the southwest corner of Yonge and Sheppard, was built by Thomas Sheppard in 1825. Its namesake was a life-sized gilded statue of a lion carved by Thomas’s brother Paul from oak wood that stood as an advertisement on the upstairs veranda over the entrance. It was stolen somehow in 1833. Paul carved me in 1834 as its replacement, also from oak.
“Folklore says defeated 1837 Upper Canada rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie paused at the hotel during his escape on horseback to the United States. When the inn ceased operation around 1900, Reverend Thomas W. Pickett acquired it to be his home. He held religious services in the former bar room. He moved me to the front porch. When the building was to be demolished, circa 1930, he gave me to his daughter and her husband, George S. Henry, then premier of Ontario, who had an estate near Sheppard and Don Mills. Some people call me ‘Henry’ after him. Their children mischievously painted my coat beige and mane orange. Grrr!
“In 1955, the Henrys gave me to the York Pioneer and Historical Society. In 1961, NYHS obtained me and had me repainted gold. I was put under the auditorium stage at the then-North York Central Library building and, next, put outdoors at the historic Gibson House across the street. Children climbed onto my back and some grown-ups butted out their cigarettes on me. Grrr!
“Next stop — glass case, Novotel Hotel lobby near the library. Subsequently, my new home on the fifth floor at the new North York Central Library.
“In 2019, NYHS had me spruced up, and a plaque about the hotel near its site was unveiled by Heritage Toronto and NYHS.
“Please visit me.”