When I was little, security in public buildings was not as rigorous as it is now. I remember when we could enter City Hall from any door, including this one on what is now Corning Place (I think it was part of Maiden Lane before it was renamed to honor the late Mayor Erastus Corning).
I was a fairly observant child - I've been told that, as a toddler, I brought a court room to an abrupt pause when I suddenly noticed the ornament atop a flag pole, and said, "Eagle!" Everyone, including the judge, stopped to see what I was pointing at.
But, as observant as I was, I never noticed this heavy carved lion's head guarding the Corning Place doors of City Hall...until now.