During my recent exploration of Downtown LA, I found my way to Pershing Square. While this has not been its name for the entirety of it’s existence, it has been an essential center of Los Angeles for many, many years.
Around the 1850s, the location was used as a camp by settlers from outside the Pueblo de Los Angeles. These later became the areas around Our Lady Queen of the Angels’ church, the Los Angeles Plaza, and present-day Olvera Street. It wasn’t until 1866 that Mayor Cristobal Aguilar officially determined it as a public square.
The park itself has cycled through many names, including St. Vincent’s Park, Central Park, and finally landing on Pershing Square in November of 1918 in honor of General John J. Pershing.
Like much of the city, the park began to lose it’s popularity around WW2, as suburbanization took its hold of Downtown LA. Today, it has become a bustling tourist hot-spot that hosts special events, concerts and an ice rink in the winter.
I believe that parks like this are essential to big cities like Los Angeles. Somewhat similar to Central Park in New York City, it provides a much needed visual break from the concrete jungle of a city. What lies inside the park itself tends to lead to a different idea. The park is home to many statues and monuments, including that modeled of Charlie Hammond, used to memorialize twenty Californian soldiers who were killed in the Spanish- American war. This seems strange to me, because just over a mile away from this square lies Olvera St. Now, while these two cultures and events may not be directly connected, it brings to mind the extreme selectivity that comes into play when choosing which cultures should be appreciated and which should be “forgotten”. This just provides a reminder that governments, cities, cultures, and even individuals will paint the prettiest picture of history that they can find, even if it isn’t the most truthful one.
(the following fun fact and the history of the park was brought to you by Wiki)
fun fact: Many of the palm trees that were planted in the park were excavated in the 1950s and sent to be used in the Disneyland ride The Jungle Cruise.