Originally built as Vancouver's courthouse, it was designed by Francis Rattenbury in the classical style. Nelson Island granite was used for the base section and Haddington Island stone for upper levels. The two lions flank what was originally the main entrance were carved by John Bruce — a Scottish artisan who was working in Vancouver, assisted by Tim Bass — from granite from the appropriately named Granite Island near Pender Harbour. They are modeled on London's Trafalgar Square lions by Sire Edwin Landseer. The King Edward VII Memorial Fountain echoes the structure of the main building with its similar pillars and formal structure. The building was completed in 1911.
A 184-foot flagpole, erected in 1912 in the front courtyard--allegedly the tallest in the world--was taken down in 1936 due to safety concerns. The Italian black marble fountain designed by R.H. Savery and sculpted by Count Alex von Svoboda, was opened December 15, 1966, in commemoration of the 1866 union of colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The building was renovated in 1979-82, by architect Arthur Erickson for its new life as the Vancouver Art Gallery. The original front entrance now remains unused. The gallerys back steps on Robson Street have become a favorite place for Vancouverites to meet, sell their crafts, hold public rallies, or just hang out.
Sources: Vancouver Then and Now