Long may she wave—o’er Grand Park
September 6, 2012
The next shiny, new section of Grand Park debuts Tuesday, but its centerpiece has been around for decades—although odds are you’ve never heard of it. Called “The Historic Court of American Flags,” it’s long been flying under the radar.
When the court was first completed in 1971, it featured 18 replica flags dating back to 1774, with plaques describing each one. The minimal landscaping surrounding the display served mostly as a cover for a four-level parking garage below. As far as public visibility, you’d be lucky to see more than a few stars and stripes from the neighboring streets.
Now, as the Grand Park Project gives the 12-acre space between the Music Center and City Hall a dramatic makeover, the flags have been uprooted from their original spot in the center of the park space and arranged parallel to Hill Street and Broadway. This not only vastly opened up the middle of the park’s third block but also gave the flags a more showy location.
Dawn McDivitt, the county’s project manager for Grand Park, said the flag court provides the community with “a space to reflect” on the nation’s—and the county’s—history. She said the county’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs was consulted on the flags’ relocation and were “very, very pleased” with the results.
The flag court represents an effort by the designers to incorporate the area’s history with its future. A signature feature of the park, in fact, is the renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, which, like the flags, was largely invisible to the public until two parking lot ramps were demolished and relocated.
The newest touch was the design of the concrete pedestals in which the poles and plaques have been mounted. Before, everything was cemented at ground level. Architects from Rios Clementi Hale Studios, which designed Grand Park, created the blockish pedestals so that the flags and plaques could be seen more easily, by more people.
The latest section scheduled for opening this week has been dubbed “Community Terrace.” Besides the court of flags, it boasts plants and flowers from all six floristic regions of the world, 24 cherry blossom trees from the Japanese Consulate, and, of course, the park’s movable magenta benches, chairs and tables. Terraced ramps will improve access to the area while offering extra seating capacity for large events once the final segment of the park near City Hall opens on October 6, just in time for the hugely popular CicLAvia to roll through the next day.
The Community Terrace is also home to theVietnam Memorial Monument, which features a bronzed Army helmet from the war’s era. The helmet had been sawed off and stolen twice over the years, so designers upgraded the monument with a threaded steel rod and other security measures to keep any would-be thieves at bay.
The terrace will open with a short ceremony on Tuesday, September 11 at 9 a.m. Bea Cohen, a 102-year-old World War II veteran recently honored by the Board of Supervisors, is expected to be on hand for the event. During the ceremony, the historic flags will be hoisted by veterans from all branches of the military, as well as by fire and law enforcement officials.