Lost Life Sized Statues from 1915 Revealed at LA Zoo

It was in 1915 when fourteen sculptures of lions and elephants graced the now-gone Selig Zoo in Lincoln Park. Movie producer William Selig had commissioned Carlo Romanelli, a sixth-generation sculptor from Florence, Italy, to create the life-sized concrete statutes that adorned the Mission Revival style entrance gates at the zoo.

But soon after, financial difficulties hit Selig and the zoo turned into a zoological garden. The statues remained until the 1950s when they were torn out and put in storage to be then forgotten about, tucked away and out of sight until the 60s when someone bought them for $1,200. But that person just took them to steel fabrication factory in Colton, California where that sat until 2000 when a zoo staff member located them. Luckily, the owner donated 12 of them to the zoo and an Ontario resident, who somehow got his hands on one of them and was displaying it in his front yard, donated a thirteenth statue (the last one still remains in private hands).

After years of restoration commissioned by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, the statues made a comeback today—four of them in the zoo's International Marketplace. The remaining seven will appear sometime in the future.

The LA Times' Carla Hall nicely further explores Selig's and the statues' history.