The work of Charles Marega (1871-1939)

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Charles Marega died on March 27, 1939.

Charles Marega
Charles Marega, July 1938, photo courtesy Vancouver Archives 1399-399

And, while you may not know his name you will know his work. Those are his two lion statues at the south end of the Lions Gate Bridge. And while the lions may be his most well known work, Charles (or Carlos as he was christened) was a prolific sculptor in Vancouver.

Charles Marega
Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives 260-987, James Crookall photographer, ca.1939

I first heard of him when I was writing about Alvo von Alvensleben for At Home with History. Alvensleben owned what’s now part of Crofton Girl’s School and the 20 acres it sat on at West 41st Avenue and Blenheim in Kerrisdale. He hired Marega to carve a magnificent riot of gargoyles, bats, rabbits and assorted weird faces in the white plaster of his dining room ceiling.

Crofton House ceiling courtesy Crofton House
Crofton House ceiling courtesy Crofton House

Marega maidensAt that point Marega wasn’t very well known, but he had just shocked Vancouver’s sensibilities by carving nine topless terra cotta maidens on L.D. Taylor’s building (now the Sun Tower), which likely appealed to the flamboyant Alvensleben.

Other commissions include the bronze bust of David Oppenheimer, Vancouver’s second mayor at the entrance to Stanley Park; the statue of Captain Vancouver in front of Vancouver City Hall; the 14 famous people on the Parliament Buildings in Victoria; and the drinking fountain that sits in Alexandra Park to honour Joe Fortes.

As Marega was creating sculptures for public places, his plaster work was also in demand for private mansions. His work can be found at Rio Vista on South West Marine Drive, Hycroft in Shaughnessy Heights, and Shannon at 57th and Granville.

Shannon
Shannon

While Marega worked for the wealthy, in the 1930s he and his wife Bertha lived a humble existence at 1170 Barclay Street–a simple two-storey grey stucco apartment building in the West End with the improbable name of “The Florida.”

Charles Marega's home in the 1930s
The Florida on Barclay

To make ends meet, Marega taught at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (the forerunner to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design). In fact, he had just finished teaching a class in 1939 when he had a heart attack and died. He was 68.

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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6 comments

  1. Great story,Eve!……My great – grandfather was Alvo von Albebensleben ‘s physician prior to 1914, and his flight from Vancouver as a German ” enemy alien”……The Main house, built in 1909, still sits on the Crofton House property, a low slung 2 story Craftsman house, still used as administration offices!

    1. That’s amazing Rob! I am a huge Alvensleben fan – wrote a chapter on him for At Home with History, talked to his grandsons, and toured all his Vancouver properties. The Crofton House house is still lovely and the ceiling is just amazing–could stare at it for days.

  2. Thank you Eve for such great history and please keep up the great writing. Do you know if 1170 Barclay or The Florida is on the Heritage Building list?

  3. Thanks again Eve for a very informative post. I recall reading somewhere that some numb-skulls back in the day criticized Mr. Marega’s magnificent Lions Gate Bridge sculptures for being too stylized!

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