Unveiling of New Bronze Lions at
Connecticut Avenue Gate
November 15, 2002
Mike Morgan / 202-673-0209
Smithsonian’s National Zoo Launches Zoo Renewal Plan with Bronze Lions and a Refurbished Entrance on Connecticut Avenue
Note to Editors
On Tuesday Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. the press is invited to the National Zoo pedestrian entrance, 3001 Connecticut Ave. N.W., to celebrate the unveiling of two larger-than-life bronze, sculptures of lions. National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman and sculptor Reinaldo López-Carrizo will be on hand for the unveiling, interviews to follow.
The Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance at the Smithsonian’s
National Zoo has been refurbished, and a pair of 5,000 lb. bronze lions
now watches over the arrival of zoo visitors. The new entrance is the first
step in the 10-year Zoo Renewal Plan developed by Zoo director Lucy Spelman.
The reclining, full-maned lion figures, 12-ft.-long and nearly 10-ft.-high,
face Connecticut Avenue and are the highlight of the improved entrance.
The bronze lions, the new gates and the addition of decorative pavement
were all privately funded.
Spelman said, “The lions are a spectacular way to announce the Zoo’s location on Connecticut Avenue, and they will welcome our visitors for years to come. Lions are symbolic of strength and courage; we hope they will inspire zoo-goers to help protect the diversity of animals and their habitats.”
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 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 National 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. In addition to the sculptures, the refurbished entrance includes a new gate and new landscaping. To make the entrance more inviting to foot traffic, the red-toned paving of the Zoo’s Olmsted Walk has been extended past the lions to meet the city’s sidewalk.
The Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance is used by the Zoo’s neighbors to the west, by zoo-goers arriving via Metro’s Red Line and by visitors staying at the nearby hotels.
The Zoo Renewal Plan includes the goal of bringing sculpture to the park’s Harvard Street entrance, five blocks from Metro’s new Green Line at Columbia Heights.
The National Zoo operates with a three-part mission: to study, celebrate and protect animals. Improving public spaces, animal exhibits and Zoo programs are priorities in National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman’s10-year Renewal Plan. The renovation of the Zoo’s Mane Restaurant is nearing completion with the modernized facility scheduled to open in the spring. The renovation of the Connecticut Avenue entrance will soon be followed with the construction of the all-new Kid’s Farm exhibit. And, a major part of the Zoo Renewal Plan, Asia Trail, featuring sloth bears, Asian elephants and other animals, has been designed and construction is slated to begin during 2003.