Pershing Square, Los Angeles: the History, Tragedy and Potential of Our Original Central Park, 1866-2020 On Demand Webinar

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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.

Our guests will also include author Prof. Mark Wild, Nathan Marsak, Gordon Pattison, and Kemal Cilengar.

This webinar is an illustrated lecture packed with rare photos and video that will bring old Pershing Square to life on your digital device. And you’ll find the look of an Esotouric webinar is a little different than your standard dry Zoom session, with lively interactive graphics courtesy of the mmhmm app.

After the presentation, Kim, Richard, Stephen and Courtland will answer your questions about Pershing Square history, John Parkinson and the park’s memorial sculptures and artifacts, so get ready to be a part of the show.


About Esotouric: As undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave inexplicably hated one another on sight. (Perhaps less inexplicably, their academic advisor believed they were soul mates). A chance meeting 18 years later proved much more agreeable. Richard wooed Kim with high level library database access, with which she launched the 1947project true crime blog, highlighting a crime a day from the year of The Black Dahlia and Bugsy Siegel slayings. The popular blog’s readers demanded a tour, and then another. The tour was magical, a hothouse inspiring new ways for the by-then-newlyweds to tell the story of Los Angeles. Esotouric was born in 2007 with a calendar packed with true crime, literary, architecture and rock and roll tours. Ever since, it has provided a platform for promoting historic preservation issues (like the Save the 76 Ball campaign and the landmarking of Charles Bukowski’s bungalow), building a community of urban explorers (including dozens of free talks and tours under the umbrella of LAVA) and digging even deeper into the secret heart of the city they love.

Rights and permissions: By attending an Esotouric webinar, you acknowledge that the entirety of the presentation is copyrighted, and no portion of the video or text may be reproduced in any fashion.

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