During the interwar decades, Pershing Square served as a major pedestrian crossroads at the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, connecting its bustling retail district with Bunker Hill and the developing areas to the west. During peak daytime hours, thousands of people flowed through the park’s walkways and filled its benches. The top photograph, beautifully taken by Herman J. Schultheis, shows Pershing Square’s busy southeast entrance at Sixth and Hill Streets. At the time, the intersection boasted some of the city’s heaviest pedestrian traffic off of Broadway.
Today’s Downtown Los Angeles is substantially less crowded for a litany of reasons. Pershing Square has attracted only a meager fraction of its former use since its 1952 overhaul, which removed the diagonal paths linking its four corners. The present-day view shows one of the most significant design shortcomings of its current incarnation, completed in 1994. Sight lines through the park are significantly impeded by its elevation above the sidewalk level, a problem exacerbated by the walls built along its Hill and Olive Street sides.
1. Mackie, Chester T. “Pershing Square presents queer study of humanity.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Aug. 1926. B7.
2. “Pedestrian tabulation downtown completed.” Los Angeles Times. 27 Nov. 1932. 13.
3. “Pershing Square garage given official opening.” Los Angeles Times. 10 Oct. 1952. A1.
4. Williams, Philander M. “Pershing Square – The Forum of the People.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Aug. 1921. VIII2.
Original photo: Schultheis, Herman. “Pershing Square at Hill and 6th Streets – 00039474.” Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/DoSearch?&index=tw/&databaseID=968&count=10&tag=245&terms=Pershing%20Square%20at%20Hill%20and%206th%20Streets