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The Golden Lion, front and side, after his recent spa treatment.
The Golden Lion, front and side, after his recent spa treatment.

The Golden Lion Roars Again!

We’re delighted to announce that the Society’s Golden Lion sculpture has received a condition assessment and special treatment by conservator Susan Maltby. In the fall of 2019, surface grime and debris were removed and now he shines again.

As a follow-up to our recent post, The Golden Lion: His Own Tale (1960), the Society thought it would be good to check in with him and see what’s been on his mind these last 50 years. Enjoy this charming Addendum by NYHS Director Susan Goldenberg. (Please stay tuned for news of the reopening of the North York Central Library’s fifth floor, which is currently under renovation.)

The Golden Lion: His Own Tale … Addendum

Fortunately, the North York Historical Society (NYHS) had been founded that very year, 1960, and kindly came to my rescue. It believed that I should be restored to my North York habitat where I had been happy for so many years and where I was lionized as a North York heritage special attraction.

In 1961 the nice folks at the Society took ownership of me. They knew I was unhappy that I had been painted beige with an orange mane when I was living with the Henrys and had me painted gold again. They stored me at the just-opened first North York library, the Gladys Allison Building, at Yonge Street and Park Home Avenue. Mrs. Allison started North York’s library system.

This was the loneliest and saddest period of my life. I was locked away under the stage of the auditorium and only allowed out on certain special occasions. Nobody passed by and not even a child tried to sit on my back. It was very humiliating for a lion of such royal descent; however, I weathered the bad time and emerged as majestic as ever.

About ten years later the Society transferred me across Park Home to historic Gibson House which it had helped save from demolition in the 1960s, making it a heritage museum open to the public. I was installed at the back near the entrance to the kitchen. Kids climbed onto my back to ride me again. Some grownups butted out their cigarettes on me which made me want to ROAR mightily in protest. But I am royalty, so I maintained a calm, regal silence.

When my stay at Gibson House ended around 1987, I was moved back across Park Home to the new Novotel Hotel which put me on display in a glass case in the lobby. But when the hotel was renovating in the late 1990s, I wasn’t wanted anymore.

The NYHS arranged with the new North York Central Library, which had replaced the Gladys Allison Building on the same site, to take me and I moved in the weekend of July 4, 1997. I remember it well; NYHS members and librarians helped me settle in. I was placed in a glass case on the sixth “Canadiana” floor adjacent to the elevator. At least many people passed by me in this location, but few stopped to chat or even to read the inscription on the glass cage. And nobody could pat my glorious mane, but then again nobody could butt out cigarettes on my back.

I remained there until the fall of 2019 when I was removed from my cage for restoration work. I am now in what will be the North York History Room on the fifth floor, organized by the North York Historical Society, free from my cage and looking like new. I have always had good health and don’t look a day older than when I started out life at the Golden Lion Hotel close to 200 years ago, just a few blocks from here.

North York has changed a lot over the years, but I haven’t. Please visit me. And maybe I’ll give a ROAR of approval.

Written by Susan Goldenberg.