Sixth-street Park, now Pershing Square, in 1888. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is in the background.
History of Pershing Square
Back in the 1850s, settlers camped on an undeveloped parcel of land near Los Angeles’s original Spanish plaza. As Los Angeles grew, city officials in 1866 designated five acres of the former campground into a park. Because it bordered St. Vincent’s college at the time, Angelenos briefly called it St. Vincent’s Park. Its name changed to Sixth-street Park in 1876, after the park had been significantly landscaped. In 1918, the park officially became Pershing Square.
A monument honoring local men who perished in the Spanish-American War was added in 1900. The monument’s soldier was allegedly modeled after Spanish-War veteran Charlie Hammond, a volunteer of the 7th California Infantry. Historians now speculate that the monument is the city’s oldest surviving public art work.
In 1910, the park received a makeover by John Parkinson, an architect responsible for many downtown buildings including the Alexandria Hotel, the Braly Building and later, the Los Angeles City Hall and Union Station.
Where is Central Park today? It became Pershing Square in November 1918, following the end of WWI.
The park’s main entrance on the southwest corner of Hill and Fifth. Photo taken in the 1910s.
Central Park once had a fountain crafted by Johan Caspar Lachne Gruenfeld. It debuted around 1910 and remained intact until 1952, when the park was basically gutted to build an underground parking garage.
A cool day, c. 1910. The Temple Auditorium is in the background.
Central Park, aka Pershing Square, in Los Angeles, circa 1912.
Strolling through the park in 1915.
Two bird’s eye views, c. 1915.
Feeding the pigeons in front of a beautiful, three-tiered fountain in downtown Los Angeles’ Central Park.
In early July 1942, the military parked a B25 bomber next to the Victory House at Pershing Square for the park’s July 4th celebration. The plane stayed there 10 days.
Angelenos, many of them G.I. fathers, loitering around the Victory House at Pershing Square on August 11, 1945, awaiting news of Japan’s surrender.
Atomic bombs had already been detonated in Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 8). These incidents, along with the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Manchukuo, started a series of proposals and counter-proposals between the Allies and Japan, that led to Japan’s surrender announcement on August 15. The surrender ceremony took place on September 2.
Photo: LAPL 00106101
Unhappy Campers. Ex-marine corporal David Mizrahi, his wife Sophie, and two-year-old Bobbie camped at Pershing Square in November 1945. The family had given up their search for affordable housing in Los Angeles following Mizrahi’s discharge from WWII service.
J. Paul Getty, president of Spartan Aircraft Co., saw photos of the homeless family in the newspapers. He then ordered his plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to send an experimental, aluminum, three-room trailer home (valued at $12,000) to Los Angeles for the Mitrahis to use. Next, the State Commander of the Oklahoma American Legion ordered volunteers to fill the trailer with toys for Bobbie when it arrived in Los Angeles.
The Mizrahis were not homeless for long. A Spartan Aircraft executive loaned the family his rented Los Angeles Town Home until the trailer arrived.
Two photos of a 96 ft. tall Christmas Tree at the square in 1948.
Hundreds of Angelenos looking on as their favorite social gathering place, Pershing Square, is demolished during a 1951-52 makeover. Trees, gardens, water fountains, etc., were removed and the grounds were excavated to make way for an underground parking structure. Afterwards, the city built a new version of Pershing Square on top of the underground structure–only this time, the park had more cement and less foliage. (LAPL 00039788)