Roadside marker will explain the Alderson lion

Overlooking the Greenbrier River in Alderson, this life-sized metal sculpture of the town’s famed 19th century lion, “French,” was created and installed in 2017 by Michael Loop. The Hamilton Family Foundation funded the project.Submitted Photo by Margaret Hambrick

A new roadside marker commemorating the famed Alderson lion, “French,” will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Thursday across from the town’s Visitors Center on Riverview Avenue.

The marker will be placed near a striking metal sculpture of the lion that was created and installed in 2017 by Michael Loop.

Local residents are well-versed in the story of the circus lion cub that was rescued and raised by an Alderson woman in the 1890s. As the lion grew, he occasionally wandered away from his home and strolled the streets of Alderson, much to the dismay of townsfolk. After he frightened a salesman into jumping into the Greenbrier River to escape, the town council passed a law requiring “all lions” in Alderson to be properly leashed.

Several months ago, Alderson Main Street applied for a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, via the West Virginia Humanities Council’s Folklife Program, according to a Main Street press release. Working in close partnership with the Humanities Council, the foundation awarded funding for the roadside marker through its Legends & Lore Marker Grant Program.

The Alderson lion marker is the first Legends & Lore marker to be installed in West Virginia.

Lion images abound in Alderson, on both public and private property, and the town government and the Main Street organization have strived to create a “brand” for Alderson centered on that image. The town’s official mascot, “Leo the Lion,” is a fixture at community events and walks children to elementary school each week in the fall and spring as part of the walking school bus initiative.

Alderson Main Street President Judy Lohmeyer issued an invitation for everyone to attend Thursday’s dedication ceremony.

“We are so appreciative of the Pomeroy Foundation for the funding for this sign,” she said.

Mayor Travis Copenhaver is delighted with the addition of the roadside marker.

“I am so happy to have this sign to explain to the public why we have so many lions in town,” he said. “I am proud of the lion brand and all the recent growth in our town.”

He also thanked town staffers for installing the marker.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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