click on card to enlarge
I decided to post the full back of this old postcard because the child's drawing cracked me up. The characters' expressions almost seem prescient in light of the deterioration of Pershing Square during a part of its history, as described in Wikipedia (I highlighted the one sentence that seems to sum up the park's problems in that era):
Of note: Wikipedia's coverage of the full history of Pershing Square is extensive and quite interesting, and likewise is Wikipedia's coverage on the full history of the Biltmore Hotel (now known as Millennium Biltmore Hotel). To read more in depth on the history of Pershing Square, click HERE. To read more in depth on the history of the Biltmore Hotel, click HERE.Latter 1900s
The park was in heavy use during World War II for rallies and recruitment. Post-war the park began to decline as commercial decentralization and suburbanization took hold in the greater L.A. region, and Downtown lost importance and intensity of use.
The entire park was demolished and excavated in 1952 to build an underground parking garage. In its place was concrete topped by a thin layer of soil with a broad expanse of lawn. In 1954, Kelly Roth, a Hungarian immigrant who had owned a cigar store across from the square, donated $30,000 for twin reflecting pool water features in honor of his late wife and to thank Los Angeles for the opportunities it provided him. The Roth fountains were designed by renowned architect Stiles O. Clements.
The park continued to be neglected for safe uses. Its problems were noted during the 1960 Democratic National Convention, with nominee and future president John F. Kennedy headquartered at the Biltmore Hotel facing the park. By the 1984 Summer Olympics the park had become a serious eyesore, leading the city to spend $1 million for a temporary renovation.
Below is a brief background of Pershing Square [Source: LA Parks]:
Dedicated for use by Mayor Aguilar in 1866, this park land was named "La Plaza Abaja." In 1886, it was renovated with an official park plan designed by Fred Eaton. In 1911, the park was redesigned by John Parkinson to reflect the social and economic growth of the city.
During World War I, the Square was often the scene for militia receptions and provided a forum for public speakers. On November 8, 1918, the park was formally named Pershing Square in honor of the World War I general.
The next major change came in the 1950s, when an 1800-car garage was built beneath the park. In 1989, the Pershing Square Property Association and the Community Redevelopment Agency contributed to assist the Department of Recreation and Parks in the renovation of the park. Architect Ricardo Legoretta and landscapist Laurie Olin designed the current park plan, and the park was rededicated on February 3, 1994.
So, what exactly does Pershing Square look like since it was rededicated back in 1994? And what goes on there, now that it is no longer "neglected for safe uses"? And what about the Biltmore Hotel (pictured on the left in this old postcard).....does it still exist? Also, are you curious about the story behind that huge sign on the building in the background of the postcard, the one that reads: TEMPLE BAPTIST CHURCH?
Well, read on, my friends.......
That Temple Baptist Church building played quite a role in the early years of LA culture. You can read how at the Performing Arts Center Cultural History of Los Angeles website here. As the article is not about the church it does not give information about that entity beyond its part in cultural history there. I looked for, but have not yet found, a history of that particular church building and what may have happened to it.
I discovered a fascinating website, AEWorldMap, where "you can explore the world of Architectural Engineering Design." There, the Pershing Square of today is described as having these features: ". . .two spacious plazas linked by walkway, water feature, wide range of geometry, sculptural forms, walkway resembling an earthquake faultline" These images of Pershing Square are from the linked site:
I was interested to learn about the Pershing Square Downtown Stage program during the summer months. It includes Neighbor Day with a discovery bike ride, Downtown Stage with six weeks of the best local entertainment, Friday Night Flicks, and many other activities. Additionally, there are year-round events and activities, including the Pershing Square Community Chorus (info here) that seems welcoming and enthusiastic.
Ironically(?), another website, the Project for Public Spaces, lists Pershing Square among "Five Parks that Need a Turnaround," describing the park as "Visually striking but a dull experience overall due to isolation and lack of things to do." The PPS website does not, however, date the article, and, although the home page is current, I cannot confirm whether the article was written prior to or since the installation of the Pershing Square Downtown Stage series about four seasons ago.
The Biltmore Hotel is still a treasured site and its official website boasts:
Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles
Voted BEST HOTEL by readers of the Los Angeles Downtown News for 2011!The premier choice for celebrities, presidents and dignitaries for over 85 years, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel offers historic grandeur and modern luxury in the heart of exciting downtown Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Conservancy website offers some history (below) and a Biltmore Hotel Walking Tour (click link to view available tour dates and to pay for tour reservations):
The Biltmore Hotel tour explores the architecture and rich history of this magnificent hotel, known in its early days as “The Host of the Coast.”
The Biltmore Hotel opened in 1923 as a 1,000-room hotel that was “first class in every respect.” This was the first hotel commission for the newly founded architecture firm of Schultze and Weaver, who later went on to design such grand hotels as the Park Lane and Waldorf Astoria in New York, and the Miami Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida. In addition to the lobby and grand hallway designed to resemble a Spanish palace, the hotel has several ballrooms, each decorated in sumptuous Beaux-Arts splendor.
Over the years, the Biltmore played non-stop host to high society, international political figures, movie stars, and royalty (including Rudolph Valentino, the Prince of Wales, J. Paul Getty, Howard Hughes, Herbert Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt), and it was the 1960 Democratic Convention headquarters of John F. Kennedy. In local crime lore, the Biltmore is known as the last place Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia) was seen alive.
After the tour, stay for high tea in the hotel's magnificent Rendezvous Court (additional cost, for tea reservations call the Millenium Biltmore at 213-612-1562).
For those of you not interested in the finer sensibilities of high tea at the Millennium Biltmore, I offer you scenes from Pershing Square in April 2011 during International Pillow Fight Day. With this, I think I have exhausted my subject for the week at OPW!