Unlocking North Vancouver History

Building a Vancouver Icon: The Lions Gate Bridge

Worker with Cable Clamp

Workers stabilized the suspension cables by bolting giant hexagonal clamps around them at regular intervals. This was no easy task. In the heat of the day, the strands of the top layers would writhe “like huge reptiles.” They would expand, sag, buckle, twist and drop between the lower, cooler ones. To prevent this, the work had to be done when the temperature was uniform, usually at night with the aid of floodlights. Once the strands had been clamped together, they formed the two master cables that bore the weight of the bridge. The clamps had grooves that acted as saddles for the steel suspender ropes that would actually hold up the bridge deck. The workers performed their tasks from two long temporary catwalks, which had been suspended three feet below the height of the master cables as scaffolding. Pictures taken during construction show the men working without any safety gear.

WHAT
This photograph shows a worker posing by one of the clamps designed to hold in place the 61 strands of a finished cable.

WHERE
This shot was taken on the main span of the bridge, with the cable sloping down from the south tower.

WHEN
The cable clamping was done during May of 1938.

WHO
The clamps were manufactured locally by the Vancouver Engineering Works Ltd., operators of the first steel foundry on the West Coast.

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Unlocking North Vancouver History

Building a Vancouver Icon: The Lions Gate Bridge

Introduction

Since 1938 the elegant Lions Gate Bridge has been a Vancouver icon. The slender suspension arch spans Burrard Inlet at the First Narrows, marking the entrance to Vancouver’s harbour and connecting the north shore to Stanley Park and the city centre. Conceived as an investment scheme to help develop the view-blessed slopes of West Vancouver, it soon became one of the city’s most important thoroughfares. Construction of the bridge provided work at the tail end of the Great Depression. In turn, the structure became a beacon of progress and hope for better times. Traffic has outgrown the bridge’s capacity over the years, causing much angry as well as jovial public commentary. By the 1990s, when the provincial government debated the bridge’s long-term fate, the citizens of Greater Vancouver recognized its value as a significant heritage landmark. The span was partially renovated and — love it or hate it — still carries only three lanes of traffic, but offers the fabulous views for which it has been famous for more than seven decades.

WHAT
A barque loads through her bow ports at the Moodyville mill. Many residences belonging to community members can be seen in the background.

WHERE
The busy waterfront was a centre of activity. Zoom in to see a Native canoe and men on a scow unloading hay for horses in the logging camps.

WHEN
This photo was taken sometime after 1882, when Moodyville was already well established.

WHO
Houses visible in the background belonged to people such as mill owner Sewell Moody, cook Philip Sullivan, and engineer and machinist James Lockhart.

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