Friday, May 13, 2016

Pershing Square

Pershing Square: a place in the news, because the contract for the redesign has been awarded.

At right is photo taken in 1857. 1857!

Of course, back then it was called either 6th Street Park or Central Park. Leonard Pitt, in Los Angeles A to Z, says it's also been called La Plaza Abaja (the lower plaza), City Park, and St. Vincent's Park.
On Armistice Day, 1918 (which we now call Veteran's Day, Nov. 11th) the park was named for General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, who'd served as commander of America's Expeditionary Forces during the Great War.

Below is an undated photo  taken from Bunker Hill. All these photos come from the Los Angeles Library's photo collection. PublicArtinLA dates this picture at around 1880.

And here is what the library says:

Former Mayor Cristobal Aguilar signed Pershing Square into being in 1866. . . . The park was first renovated in 1911; in the 1950s a car garage was built beneath it; and in 1994, it was completely redesigned by architect Ricardo Legoretta and landscapist Laurie Olin and was rededicated on February 3, 1994. Pershing Square takes up the entire block and is bounded by 5th Street to the north, 6th Street to the south, Hill Street to the east, and Olive Street to the west.

Like color postcards? Here are a couple, perhaps taken 20 years apart:

And a photo of the phountain taken during the construction of the Biltmore Hotel in 1922!

Based on the cars, this one is probably from the late 1930s:

One other photo of the park in its heyday, taken by Herman J. Schultheis.  I've mentioned him before and displayed his photos in articles about eucalyptus trees and the Ace Theatre. Interesting fellow and a wonderful photographer.

Dr. Pitt used to take his students from UCLA on a tour of the downtown area landmarks, from Olvera Street to Bunker Hill and more, and he recalled for them when he first came to Los Angeles, after World War II (I don't recall how long after--may have been the 1950s). Pershing Square used to attract all sorts of soapbox orators, who would stand on crates to expound their gripes or political views.

This photo, undated, looks 50s-ish to me.

And then, in 1952, the whole thing was ripped out and a parking garage set underneath it. Here's a photo of that:

Pershing Square went through more updates, in 1964 and 1984 (in preparation for the Olympics), and drastically in 1993. I will stop here, though, because my poor blog will probably hiccup and choke if I try to cram more pictures into one post. Nobody liked those remodels, anyway, as far as I can tell. Every article I read rails about how awful they were!

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