Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pershing Square, 1962

Marvin Wolf (whose book Fallen Angels you see at far right) took these pictures fifty years ago, when he wandered around Pershing Square with his camera. Just out of the army, he came into the city for a job interview, and was told to come back after lunch.

This particular monument is the oldest piece of public art in Los Angeles, and memorializes those who died in the Spanish American War in 1898.

Twenty-one names are listed. The title at top reads "7th Cal. Inf., U.S.V." The monument went up in 1900, through the efforts of veteran Charlie Hammond, to honor his fellow soldiers. The artist was Samuel M. Goddard.

The man standing next to the monument told Marvin that his father served in that war, in the Navy.

And as I learned from the MilitaryMuseum site, California sent thousands of men to fight in the Spanish American war. The men remembered in Pershing Square never made it to the fighting, though. They died of disease while stationed at the Presidio in Northern California, most of them after the Armistice was signed.

In 1993, the monument was moved from its original location and changed--the base height was reduced by half, according to this information from the PublicArtinLA site.

The Biltmore Hotel is in the background. And now, in December, ice skating season is open! $6 an hour plus $2 for skate rental.

Marvin apologized for what he called "solarization"--and I assume he means the mottled look on the face of the two men at left. If you blow the picture up, you can see it. The negatives were not perfectly preserved for all of that fifty years.

I remember what I was doing fifty years ago. Well, sort of. I remember my classroom, and I remember coming home from school to hear a lot of shouting in the house during the World Series. The teams were the Yankees and Giants, and we cheered for the Giants because they were from California. At least my Dad did. Mom cheered for baseball, no matter who was playing.

Those of you too young to remember anything that happened fifty years ago--it's a weird feeling. Fifty years is a long time. How can I remember that long ago when I clearly do not feel that old?

But look at these guys here. Chances are, they were around during World War One.

And observe how little men's suits have changed in fifty years.

Wanna see what the park looked like in the 1880s? Click here.


Paul Sholar said...

You don't consider cemetery monuments to be "public art"?

Paul Sholar said...

You don't consider cemetery monuments to be "public art"? Some still extant in L.A. might be older than year 1900.

Will Campbell said...

I love being reminded of what a wonderful civic center we had in Pershing Square... right up until its current closed-off "It Came From The '80s!"incarnation was foisted upon angelenos in the early/mid 1990s. I've tried repeatedly to embrace its dated-right-away style and disconnection with its surroundings, but each time I'm in the park I come away reinforced that it's an abominable use of such precious open space. I can only hope that the city will some day correct this mistake and restore Pershing Square to being the accessible public plaza it should always be.

Vix said...

Thank you both for your comments. Will, I agree with you heartily.
Paul, I was going by other's statements that this monument was the oldest in LA.
So I looked up a definition of public art. I thought (wrongly) that it was art created with public funds or art created for the public. But, it's artwork created to be in a public space and viewable by all.
That's murky enough to be confusing, because cemeteries are accessible--but they aren't really in the public domain the way a street corner or park is.