Monday, October 7, 2013

The Biltmore Hotel and Pershing Square

I dug this old postcard out of the files after reading a story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about Pershing Square, the bit of green in the foreground.  Yet again, L.A. is thinking about renovating Pershing Square.  Once upon a time, many years ago, Pershing Sq., was the Los Angeles version of Central Park.  I suppose, that's not the greatest of comparisons.  Our square is a city block, far smaller than New York's actual Central Park, but back then, Los Angeles was a far smaller city than it is now.  Then, Pershing Square was our little urban oasis, with "tall trees, gracious paths, and a burbling fountain at it's heart."  Or so it's described in the article.

But once again, change is the only constant.  In the fifties, those trees and paths were removed to make way for a 2000 car parking garage and the city bomb shelter. (How adorable that we thought  massive nuclear war survivable.)  Since then it's gone through more than a few renovations, the latest designed to make the park unattractive to the homeless.  I'm not even going to get into the whole issue of doing something about homelessness, but it should have occurred to the urban planner who thought that one up, that if the homeless wouldn't want to go there, neither would anyone else.

Anyway, we've got a new urban task force working on a long term plan for the park.  We've also got a couple of historians, husband and wife, Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, who are pushing an idea of their own.  Just make it like it was before the renovations, before the parking garage.  Anyone wishing to sign their on line petition, can go to Google and type in Pershing Square petition Schave and Cooper.  I just did.  There's even a postcard of what Pershing Square once looked like and a box for comments.

The caption for this postcard, "THE BILTMORE HOTEL, LOS ANGELES 13, CALIFORNIA."  and  "The largest hotel in western America.  1500 Rooms.  Situated between two tropical parks in heart of business district. Home of the Biltmore Bowl, a world-famous supper club.  Underneath the lawn in the foreground is Pershing square garage with a capacity for 2000 cars."  The message, "Hi!, Honestly we need you to make this party complete.  I've never been in such a fabulous place in my life. (aside from Bermuda!) Do so wish you were here.  Jenni"  Mailed to, "Miss Paula Galbraith, 505 Dunedin, Columbus, Ohio"  Postmark, "LOS ANGELES, DEC 30 11 AM 1954, CALIF."

Is the bomb shelter still there?  I couldn't find any info on that.

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