In the two years since restoration work on the largely-forgotten Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial restoration in Downtown Los Angeles began, the areas around the isolated military memorial fountain have begun to see signs of change.
To the north, the LA Plaza Village project, a new mixed-use development by architects Johnson Fain and landscape architects SWA Group, will likely transform the area when its 355 housing units and 46,000 square feet of commercial spaces come online in 2018. That project will take over several Los Angeles County–owned parking lots occupying the relatively isolated blocks east of the memorial. These formerly-neglected hillside lands are populated mostly by encampments, parking lots, and planted slopes and are relatively difficult to access on foot. The LA Plaza project will feature, however, a central, stepped paseo connecting across several blocks, linking the memorial with the pedestrian life of the Olvera Street area to the east. The Civic Center area to the south of the memorial, meanwhile, is working toward implementing the initial phases of a new, transformative master plan that seeks to convert the bureaucratic enclave into a mixed-use residential neighborhood in its own right.
If there’s anything in the air around these parts, it’s change. Work on the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial continues in pursuit of these changes, as the fountain—its waters shut off since the 1977 drought—is meticulously restored by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission under the guidance of Conservator Donna Williams and Civic Art Collections Manager Clare Haggarty.
The memorial is located atop the stubborn slope that gives Downtown Los Angeles’s Hill Street its name and is dedicated to the Mormon Battalion and the New York Volunteer American military forces that first raised the American flag over the recently-conquered California territory on July 4th, 1847.
The memorial is situated in a sunken plaza that features a large, running-bond brick expanse on its northernmost end. Next follows the 80-foot-wide waterfall backed by small, colorful tiles. The southernmost portion of the memorial contains a 78-foot by 45-foot terra cotta bas relief installation designed by renowned German sculptor Henry Kreis depicting the flag raising ceremony mentioned above. The bas relief installation also features a trio of symbolic narrative compositions celebrating the area’s conquest via Manifest Destiny. The uppermost panel celebrates the post-indigenous Spanish ranchos and agricultural pioneers of the area. The central panel depicts a “prairie schooner,” a type of stagecoach used by the early American settlers “who made Los Angeles a city,” while the lowest panel celebrates the might of industrial “water and power” that allowed for the region to be inhabited on a mass…