Friday, October 31, 2008

Pershing Square Torn Up Again

Gee, has it been 15 years since we ripped apart Pershing Square? How time flies. The photo at right, from the Los Angeles Public Library, was taken by Cary Moore and shows the last re-do, in 1993.

According to the Los Angeles' Times front-page story, which includes some lovely photos and a short history of the park since 1866: yes, the place is about to be redesigned--this time, as an area more friendly to the many residents of the area. Changes will be funded in part by the Park Fifth project, providing, per David Houk, Director, "As much grass and trees as possible."

Sounds great. This photo, also from LAPL, is undated, but I would guess from the cars that it was taken in the 1940s.

The park was renamed in 1918 for General Pershing of WWI fame. The Times photo essay has a picture of the pre-Pershing, 1885 "Central Park". A steepled church stands in the Biltmore location.

When the park's name was changed by order of the City Council, LA's Mayor Woodman objected. Seems the council had previously passed civic rules to keep crowds from congregating in the square, and he fussed that the new name, along with a planned memorial honoring the soldiers and leaders of the Great War, would violate all those rules. Well, they were probably silly rules to begin with.

In April 1919, the Square was the scene of a huge welcome-home victory celebration for the soldiers. A band played "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here," and "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," then the "Star Spangled Banner." The regiments broke, and all the soldiers began mixing with their loved ones. Meal tickets were handed out so that all the men of the 160th Regiment could eat at the downtown restaurants (thanks to the Red Cross). Several companies were served lunch in the banquet hall of the Trinity Hotel.

That was long before this picture was taken, since the Biltmore opened in 1923.

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