You can’t miss it, not even if you want to. In the heart of the city, sits one of America’s most hated urban parks.
Critics call Pershing Square a concrete hell-scape, a confused collection of purple protuberances, a zone of repulsion with no shade, no place to sit, nothing to look at— just a flat slab over a parking garage.
But once upon a time, Pershing Square was the most beautiful and lively place in town, a communal garden beloved by Downtown office workers and the boarding house and hotel dwellers of Bunker Hill and Skid Row. Tourists bought Pershing Square postcards, hotels bragged about their proximity, artists painted the passing scene, and writers like John Fante, Aldous Huxley and Hart Crane marveled at the human circus.
As designed in 1910 by master architect John Parkinson, who did the work at no cost as a gift to his adopted city, the classic park boasted a central fountain, long shaded walkways, dozens of comfortable benches, rare plants, iconic memorials, and memorable oddballs who attracted crowds to watch their antics.
But political pressure and changing demographics doomed the great park, which lost much of its greenery when the soil was excavated for multi-level parking and a Cold War-era bomb shelter. Next came the design competitions and remodels, each new iteration more unpleasant than the one before.
Join Esotouric, L.A.'s most eclectic sightseeing tour company, for a virtual exploration of Pershing Square’s humble origins and colorful golden age, how everything went wrong, and a hopeful glance forward at how it can once again be a great urban park.
Your hosts Kim Cooper and Richard Schave are native Angelenos who who launched the Pershing Square Restoration Society to advocate for including John Parkinson’s design in councilman Jose Huizar’s competition for a new Pershing Square design. When Huizar refused to even let citizens vote for the popular Parkinson plan, Kim and Richard teamed up with other fans to critique the winning design, tell the park’s story and promote historic restoration.
Joining us to tell the the incredible Pershing Square story are Stephen Gee, author of “Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles” and Courtland Jindra, the World War I memorialist who solved the mystery of the park’s lost 18th century siege cannon.