Vancouver Feature: Nine Maidens Adorn the New World Building

Known today for its second tenant, the Vancouver Sun, the old World Building is one of Vancouver’s distinct landmarks. In addition to its elegant tower and dome, it is graced with nine voluptuous Art Nouveau maidens, caryatids created by Charles Marega, Vancouver’s signature sculptor.

Two of Marega’s Maidens
The World building, 1915

R. Broadbridge, Vancouver Public Library 8388.

World Building

The stately domed structure at Pender and Beatty passed from the Vancouver World to the Vancouver Sun

Italian-born Charles Marega and his beloved wife, Bertha, arrived in Vancouver in 1909. She was so smitten with the North Shore mountains, which reminded her of her native Switzerland, that they changed their plans to continue to California. The maidens of the World Building were an early commission, but many others followed.

Marega’s public sculptures dot the city. There's the David Oppenheimer bust in Stanley Park and the statue of Capt. George Vancouver at City Hall. There's the deer crest and other decorations on Seaforth Armoury, the city coat of arms and the heads of Vancouver and Capt. Harry Burrard on Burrard Bridge, the Joe Fortes fountain in Alexandra Park, across from English Bay, and the King Edward VII fountain on the west side of the Vancouver Art Gallery. In 1926 he sculpted the huge Warren Harding memorial in Stanley Park.

But his most famous works are his last: the twin lions at the entrance to the Lion’s Gate Bridge. By the time Marega received that commission in 1938, Bertha had died, leaving Marega, who had been devoted to her, a broken man. The commission meant survival. The lions were made of concrete, rather than stone or bronze, because of Depression-era austerity. They were put in place in January 1939 to great acclaim. Two months later, on March 24, 1939, Charles Marega died of a heart attack at age 67. His and his Bertha’s ashes have been lost; they have no graves. He had $8 in the bank at his death.