During its 1951-1952 overhaul, Pershing Square was rebuilt with a number of major design failures which would plague the park for several decades. Most egregiously, ramps to the park’s underground parking garage were built along each side of the park, leaving no sidewalks along its periphery. Pedestrian circulation was further impeded in the park itself; diagonal paths were eliminated, and its new central lawn was fenced off from the public (the design is well-illustrated in this aerial view).
Perhaps more problematically, the new Pershing Square failed to quell long-standing conflicts among the park’s users, which reached a boiling point in the early 1960s. Although the park had long been a refuge for central Los Angeles’ poor and elderly, their growing numbers were increasingly accompanied by vocal proselytizers and petty criminals. In response to a barrage of complaints to city officials and the press, the Department of Recreation and Parks took dramatic steps to restrict the gathering of Pershing Square’s “familiars.” All benches were removed in 1963, while plans were drawn for another renovation of the troubled park.
The top photograph shows Pershing Square roughly one year after its 1964 facelift, which saw the reintroduction of diagonal walkways, the installation of multi-globed lamps, and the recreation of a central plaza. In a drastic effort to maximize sight lines through the park, most vegetation along the park’s edges was removed, sparing only the trees in its center. Pershing Square was eventually renovated once again in 1984, and substantially rebuilt to its current appearance in the early 1990s.
1. Jardine, J. Earle Jr., Samual J. Sugarman, et al. “New design demanded for Pershing Square.” Los Angeles Times. 4 Jan. 1964. B4.
2. “Model gives preview of ‘new’ Pershing Square.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Jul. 1964. A3.
3. “Part of Pershing Square’s garage will open Thursday.” Los Angeles Times. 25 Apr. 1952. 2.
4. Porter, Frederick. “Pershing Square bench removal called blow at old, unfortunate.” Los Angeles Times. 21 Oct. 1963. A4.
5. Smith, Jack. “Familiars filter back into Pershing Square.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Feb. 1965. A1.
6. West, Richard. “Hecklers fail to mar Pershing Square rites.” Los Angeles Times. 13 Nov. 1964. A2.
Original photo: Conner, Palmer. “6th Street and Olive Street.” 1965. Palmer Conner Collection of Color Slides of Los Angeles. Huntington Digital Library. The Huntington Library. http://hdl.huntington.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15150coll2/id/7658