Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Travels and Travails of the Haym Salomon Statue, Part Three

This is the third and final part of a post by Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez on a little-known statue for a largely-forgotten figure from the American Revolution, Haym Salomon.  We hope you've enjoyed this post and come back soon for more posts on the fascinating history of Boyle Heights!

Demographic changes began quickly in Boyle Heights at the end of World War II as many longtime Jewish residents began moving to West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley or other regional locations.

By 1951, when many Jewish residents had already moved from Boyle Heights, plans were made by the Haym Salomon Committee and the Jewish War Veterans of America to relocate the Haym Salomon statue to the west side. The March 21, 1951 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Examiner reported on the activities surrounding the removal of the statue from Hollenbeck Park.

Los Angeles Daily Examiner, 21 March 1951, courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
The 12-foot tall, 13-ton monument was hoisted onto a flatbed trailer along with a sign announcing its new location on the western edge of downtown Los Angeles—this being the recently-renamed MacArthur (changed in 1942 from Westlake) Park on Wilshire Blvd. The opening paragraph of the Herald story described its relocation as a move, “[f]rom its obscure place amidst the trees and shrubs of Hollenbeck Park . . . to a position of prominence” in its new home.


Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1951, courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
The rededication ceremony in MacArthur Park was held April 8, 1951 and that date was declared Haym Salomon Day by the city. The two-hour program featured a parade, an address by Mayor Bowron, a printed program for the event, and claims of a bigger crowd than that of the original dedication. 


Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1951, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library.
Due to vandalism in its last few years at Hollenbeck Park, the statue needed much repair and refurbishing before the event. By this time, the original artist, Robert Paine, had passed away, so the restoration of the statue was handled by sculptor Frederick Martinez. Evidently, the statue may not have fared any better in terms of vandalism in its new home at MacArthur Park because, on December 8, 1958, the L.A. Times reported that another ceremony was held for the “refurbished statue”.

The MacArthur Park rededication ceremonies took place in the height of the Cold War period, when the “Red Scare” hung low in the civic atmosphere. Unlike the wartime focus of war bond sales drives when the statue was installed in Boyle Heights, the core concern of the ceremonies was a call to a more vigilant type of patriotic spirit because of fears that “the enemy” might be domestic, as well as foreign, communists. As one rabbi stated in the 1958 rededication, “this spirit is important in an age where we must deal with crafty enemies who try to twist our intentions and our words.”

After some twenty years at MacArthur Park, changing times led the Haym Salomon statue to change its home.  In an Los Angeles Times article from April 29, 1972, concerns again were raised in the Jewish community that, due to further damage, as well as Jewish residents leaving the MacArthur Park area and moving further west, the statue should be relocated. 


Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1983, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library/
So, on January 1984, with the Jewish War Veterans financing the move, the statue was once again hoisted onto a flatbed trailer and relocated to the now bustling Jewish neighborhood of the Fairfax district. According to Al Goldfarb, public information officer for Recreation & Parks in 1984, “Salomon's is the most frequently moved statue in the city's park history.” The statue's third location (if you're counting) was now in front of the new West Wilshire Recreation Center, at 1st and Gardner streets, the site where the historic Pan Pacific Auditorium burned down in 1989.


Los Angeles Times, 2 November 2005, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library.
The statue remained at the location for only 11 years. Plans to expand the recreation center and the surrounding area required that it be moved. Some thought the statue might be more prominent if it served as part of a new gateway entrance to Pan Pacific Park at the corner of 3rd and Gardner, a block east of the Grove shopping center. The work to remove the statue began on November 1 2005, but, as an L.A. Times article noted the next day, movers were surprised it clung stubbornly to its concrete base, and an estimated 30 minute job to remove it turned into a 4-hour project.
  
On June 12, 2008, councilman Tom LaBonge, and the Jewish War Veterans Department of California, Hollywood Post No. 113 sponsored a re-dedication ceremony to celebrate the statue on its “final stop on its journey West.” This was its fourth location in 64 years.

The Haym Salomon Statue at Pan Pacific Park.  Photo by Rudy Martinez, June 2015.
Like the community that honors him, the statue appears, after its journey from its original Boyle Heights location, firmly established in the Westside's Fairfax District.  However, if the neighborhood's demographics should change at some future point, the custodians of the Haym Salomon statue have displayed a determination not to leave it behind.

As mentioned earlier, a plaque installed at the foot of the statue lists the names of the parks where the statue has been located, in chronological order, sans any dates; but if you look to the bottom-left side of the chair on the statue itself, though, you can still see the engraved, original dedication date, January 6, 1944.

The original inscription from the 6 January 1944 dedication of the Haym Salomon Statue at Hollenbeck Park on the bottom left of the chair/base.  Photo by Rudy Martinez, June 2015.
On a closing note, one mystery remains. From all the newspaper articles and the other various reports that have followed the statue's move from east to west, there are no reports of whether or not, at some point, anyone recovered the copy of the 1939 Warner Brothers short, Sons of Liberty, which was placed in the base of the statue in the original 1944 dedication in Boyle Heights.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Travels and Travails of the Haym Salomon Statue, Part Two

This is the second part of a post by Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez on a little-known statue for a largely-forgotten figure from the American Revolution, Haym Salomon.  Enjoy and check back soon for the next installment!

After a good deal of planning was instituted for the installation of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, a letter was sent to the supporters of the project by the federal Treasury Department on behalf of the Haym Salomon Day Committee with the date for the unveiling (January 6, the anniversary of Salomon's death) and details for the accompanying war bond sales campaign. 


A letter from the Haym Salomon Day Committee inviting the recipient to the 6 January 1944 dedication of the statue at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles
A follow-up invitation was soon sent out, inviting supporters to attend a fundraiser on December 18 at the Boyle Heights Victory House located at Brooklyn Avenue (now César Chávez Avenue) and Soto Street. Organizing the event with Monte Salvin was businessman Meyer Pransky, who was well-known in Boyle Heights for organizing a number of successful war bond drives that earned city-wide attention. For example, a particularly impressive 21-day drive raised $300,000 by mid-January 1943, culminating in the christening of a B-12 Flying Fortress Bomber as “The Spirit Of Boyle Heights.”  Meanwhile, a letter was also sent out by the Haym Salomon Day Committee to numerous civic leaders and organizations inviting them to Hollenbeck Park for the unveiling.

On December 22, 1943, Mayor Fletcher Bowron signed a City of Los Angeles proclamation designating January 6, 1944 as Haym Salomon Day.  An accompanying photo showed Bowron signing the proclamation with Salvin and film actress Marjorie Weaver, whose best-known film was 1939's Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda, and whose last film was only a year away, witnessing. The document specifically mentions Hollenbeck Park as the site for the unveiling event.

Actress Marjorie Weaver, Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron and Haym Salomon Day Committee chair Monte Salvin at the signing of the proclamation of Haym Salomon Day.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
In a community event almost completely unknown today, the unveiling of the Haym Salomon statue was met with great civic fanfare. The four-hour program included a military parade, a concert, a celebrity emcee, and a live broadcast over KFWB radio. The mayor, prominent citizens, representatives from various faiths, and even the local vice-consul of China were present.

A large crowd attended the dedication of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park on 6 January 1944.  Courtesy of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner photo collection, Los Angeles Public Library.
According the Los Angeles Times, about one thousand spectators were in attendance, but this number may not even include those who lined the parade route. It was also reported that “more than $250,000 worth of war bonds were sold,” an impressive amount but far short of the committee's very ambitious goal of $3,000,000.


The cover of the program issued for the 6 January 1944 dedication of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
A two-page program was published for the event.  A closer look at the document revealed a Hollywood connection literally hidden within the statue. In 1939, Warner Brothers released a two-reel (about twenty minutes) film titled Sons of Liberty based on the life of Salomon and starring Claude Rains, a four-time Oscar nominee in such films as 1939's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and 1942's Casablanca.  Sons of Liberty went on to win the 1940 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.

Starring Oscar-nominated actor Claude Rains, the two-reel short film, Sons of Liberty, about the contribution of Haym Salomon to the Revolutionary War effort won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.  From The Film Daily, April-June 1939, courtesy of The Media History Digital Library.
The second page of the program indicated the ceremonies included the “Sealing of Archives in Base of Statue” that included a copy of the film. It's interesting to note that, in depicting Salomon in any medium, artistic license has to be used because no contemporary likeness of him exists. No one today really knows what he looked like, so who knows if the British-born Rains bore any resemblance!

The 7 January 1944 edition of the Los Angeles Times featured this article covering the unveiling of the statue.  Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Public Library.
In Boyle Heights smaller-scale “anniversary ceremonies” continued at Hollenbeck Park over the next several years. Noted historian and philosopher, Will Durant (winner, with his wife Ariel, of a Pulitzer Prize for one installment of the 11-volume Story of Civilization), addressed a Hollenbeck Park audience on the one-year anniversary on January 8, 1945. The war ended seven months later, signaling the beginnings of a population shift that would soon change the character of Boyle Heights and the location of the Haym Salomon statue.

The next part of this series discusses how the Haym Salomon statue for points west, so check back soon!