Despite the massive redevelopment of their adjacent neighborhoods, the buildings flanking Pershing Square’s southern and western sides remain largely intact, the primary addition being the 26-story City National Bank tower. Contemporary Pershing Square, twice rebuilt in the intervening years, bears precious little resemblance to its 1910 design by John Parksinon. The top photograph shows the park sometime around 1930, soon after the initial introduction of tropical plants (written about previously).
The elevated view allows for a number of comparisons of two very different park designs. Perhaps most striking is the fact that pre-war Pershing Square had relatively few paved areas and accessible open spaces aside from its bench-lined walkways and central fountain area. Furthermore, the six walkways which radiated from the fountain provided direct, largely unobstructed paths through the square. On the other hand, modern Pershing Square has an abundance of open paved areas in its central region, and few direct paths from one end to another. Whereas today’s park does not appear to have drastically less tree cover than its predecessor, it is nearly entirely concentrated along the park’s edges, obstructing views between it and its neighboring buildings.
Both photographs were taken from the upper stories of the Pershing Square Building, completed at the park’s northeast corner in 1924. This commanding view of downtown’s central park is currently accessible to patrons of Perch, a rooftop bar which sits atop two new floors recently added to the historic office building.
Source: Richardson, Eric. “Pershing Square Building still growing.” Blogdowntown. 15 Oct. 2008. http://blogdowntown.com/2008/10/3715-pershing-square-building-still-growing.
Original photo: “CHS-m2880. Pershing Square from the top of an area building, ca. 1920-1939.” Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/search/controller/view/chs-m2880.html.