The front page of today’s Los Angeles Times local section focused on Pershing Square downtown, voicing pretty much everyone’s opinion that the city should return the hard-scaped plaza to its original Central Park-style design. (Here’s the article.)
I recalled my linen-type postcard of Pershing Square (above). Probably a 1940s reproduction. (Linen-type postcards are those rag cardstock ones with woven-textured fronts and smooth backs. They were common in the ’30s and ’40s.)When I received this postcard almost a year ago, I’d been to the square many times, but I didn’t know its history. As many a postcard has, this one inspired me to do some research. I learned that in the 1850′s, when the pueblo of Los Angeles had just been incorporated as a city, the area that would become Pershing Square was a settlers’ camp. Canals ran alongside it, which is so hard to imagine now that it’s boxed in by busy boulevards. A decade later, the new mayor dedicated the plot as a public plaza, and a local businessman, a German immigrant who ran a beer garden, planted beautiful trees and flowering shrubs which he maintained till his death.
The plaza flourished as a central park for the city, and in 1900, became the home of Los Angeles’ first work of public art (a monument to fallen Californian soldiers of the Spanish-American War).
After many name changes, the park was dubbed Pershing Square, after WWI’s General Pershing, a week after Armistice Day in 1918.
In the ’50s, as the L.A. Times article passingly mentions, Pershing Square was demolished to construct an underground parking garage. I know, how L.A… A Hungarian immigrant who owned a cigar store across the street did have a reflecting pool laid atop the garage in honor of his late wife and in thanks to the city for the opportunity he’d found here. Otherwise, the lot was an eyesore. In 1994, it took on its current state, becoming accessible to the public again but not inviting.
A friend was visiting from England a few weeks ago, and I told him about all this as we crossed through Pershing Square. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos, because despite the no-laying-down cement benches, some designer worked in a nod to the past…through postcards!