The artistic concept of a pair of reclining lions, one on guard and one resting, supposedly originated as part of an elaborate tomb for Pope Clement VIII in 1783. Over the next century the lions were replicated worldwide, and these became known as the “Vatican Lions”. Today Montgomery can boast of having several versions, in marble, cast iron and even concrete, but our most venerable pair are certainly those that currently guard the entrance to Montgomery’s famous antebellum Knox Hall on South Perry St, said to be our finest example of Greek Revival architecture. I have it on good authority that this superbly crafted pair of Italian Carrera Marble lions arrived in Montgomery pre-Civil War, having been purchased by wealthy RR-tycoon, James Powell, to embellish his home on Church Street. Soon after the war ended, Powell started and became president of a new land company organized to found the City of Birmingham. His relentless and flamboyant promotion of the new venture earned him the title of “The Duke of Birmingham”. Apparently, Powell moved to Birmingham and became its first elected mayor, but he left his lions in Montgomery. A hundred years later, thru the good works of Mary Ann Neeley and Landmarks, the marble sculptures wound up as prized accouterments of the yet-standing Knox Hall, bearing as rich a history as the house itself.
Marble Lions Resting In Peace Near ‘Home’ – Like the lions of the jungle, Montgomery’s beautiful Italian marble lions have been roaming quite a bit since they were brought here from Italy before the Civil War. Although they rest in peace, they have proved to be social successes through the years for they have graced some of the city’s lovely old homes for generations.
The work of a noted Italian artist and said to cost $3000 when purchased, they were brought to this country by Mrs. James Powell, wife of one of Alabama’s most prominent men – the founder of Birmingham. They were placed first at the Powell home on Church Street, located just behind Old Court Street Methodist Church, or at the went end of the block on which the Post Office is now located. This house was occupied by Gen. James H. Wilson when his troops took over Montgomery on April 12, 1865. So one could say the lions stood guard over the conqueror of Montgomery
When the Powell house was sold Mr. Powell loaned the lions to Hon. M. L. Moses, ex-Mayor of Montgomery and they remained at him home on Perry Street until 1892 when they were brought by Sigmund Roman. They were placed at the old Knox house which is still in existence at the back of the Martha Stuart Apartments.
In 1905 the lions were moved to the residence of Mr. N. J. Greil, 521 S. Perry Street and in 1927, when Mrs. Greil moved to New York, were placed in storage at the Alabama Warehouse Co., Mr. Roman’s business, acquired and then owned by T. L. Samuel.
The lions were taken to their new home in November 1965 at 3552 Thomas Ave, for they had been given to Charlotte and Roman Weil, he is the grandson of Sigmund Roman and Charlotte the great niece of M. L. (Mordecai) Moses.
They remained there until recently when Mrs. Weil gave them to Landmarks Foundation. Now Landmarks has loaned them to the old Lomax House on S. Court Street, where they grace the entrance of the lovely old home occupied by Preferred Life Assurance Society, thus ending in 1972 a long trek around the city which brings them back to the same neighborhood where they first rested in Montgomery.
-Montgomery Advertiser – April 1972