The National Zoo's Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance is home to a pair of 5,000-pound bronze lions, watching over the arrival of Zoo visitors.
The reclining, full-maned lion figures, 12 feet long and nearly ten feet tall, face Connecticut Avenue and are the highlight of this busy entrance.
The muscular lions—one with its mouth open, the other with its mouth closed—were originally created in 1906 by sculptor Roland Perry. They were cast in concrete, and one set of the sculptures was placed at each end of the Taft Bridge located just south of the Zoo on Connecticut Avenue. Ninety years of weather and vibration from traffic took their toll on the sculptures, prompting Washington officials to call on artist Reinaldo López-Carrizo of Professional Restoration Inc. to save the popular Taft Bridge landmarks.
Reinaldo re-sculpted the two figures, re-cast them in high-strength concrete and the lions were returned to the Taft Bridge in August 2000. At that time former National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman met the artist and together they found a way for Reinaldo’s art to be used again to cast the lions in bronze for the Zoo.
Mounted on 30-inch-high textured concrete bases, the bronze lions now stand more than 12 feet above the sidewalk and have a commanding presence on Connecticut Avenue.
The Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance is used by the Zoo’s neighbors to the west, zoogoers arriving via Metro’s Red Line, and visitors staying at the nearby hotels.