What icon comes to mind when you hear the name New York City? For me it’s the Statue of Liberty. Others might think of the Empire State Building. What about Paris? The Eiffel Tower. London? Buckingham Palace. San Francisco? The Golden Gate Bridge. Egypt? The pyramids. The Sydney Opera House. The Great Wall of China, Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal…
All great monuments of their time that stand for ingenuity, craftsmanship and the indomitable spirit of mankind and our artistic skills.
Now think Los Angeles. I would hazard a guess that what pops to mind is Hollywood and the Hollywood sign or Graumann’s Chinese Theater. Vast monuments? Skillfully designed edifices that strike awe into people when they first see it?
No, a nearly century-old advertising gimmick to sell lots in a city that was promoting growth. Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, along with other wealthy Californians, was also a land speculator. He promoted the growth of Los Angeles, the Valley and of course, Hollywood. The sign meant to help him and the other investors to get richer went up in 1923 at the cost of $23,000. The LAND part of the sign was removed in 1949. It was fixed and made more permanent in 1978. In 2005 the metal sign was stripped and repainted white.
I guess in terms of monuments, it beats a giant donut.
In actual fact, one of the greatest achievements of Los Angeles was the construction of the 233 mile Los Angeles aqueduct in the early 1900s, an engineering feat, doubled by the fact it was designed by a man with no formal engineering training who convinced a city of skeptics to fund the building of a pipeline that would bring water from Owens Lake to L.A. That the act destroyed a farming community and was empowered by corruption and greed, the monument is indeed a little tarnished. Still, without it, the city of Los Angeles would not exist and in my mind, the world would be diminished because of it. I explore this event in my upcoming novel, “Stolen Waters”, the third book in the Irish Immigrant series starting with “Ashes & Ice”. See more about the pipeline at Los Angeles Aqueduct images
This is part of why I love L.A. It’s not like anyplace else. Where else would pocket dogs be created. Where pet rocks actually became a craze. (I had a pet rock, but I didn’t buy him in some store, I caught him myself, up in the hills and I had to break him all by myself) Where people throng from all over the world to see the hand prints or footprints of men and (and the odd animal) they only know through the screen. Where even the cops are good looking. Where some east coast exiles came with a few black and white, grainy moving pictures and created a multi-billion dollar enterprise that has shaped beliefs and societies.
What’s not to love?