Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Move Statue of Joseph Scott to First and Hill Streets
By ROGER M. GRACE
Joseph Scott was in the forefront of efforts that began in 1901 to erect a statue of the late Stephen M. White, who had served as district attorney of Los Angeles County, a state senator, lieutenant governor of California, and as a U.S. senator from this state. White was a statesman whom some saw, while he was in the Senate, as a possible president.
The appropriateness of a statue of him was suggested by a merchant to the publisher of the Los Angeles Times at White’s funeral. The publisher, Harrison Gray Otis, liked the idea, and the White Memorial Committee was formed, with Scott as secretary. (I wrote a couple of “Perspectives” columns on the statue in October, 2006, going into detail on its history.)
At the time Scott was involved in raising the $25,000 that was needed for the project, he would little have imagined that someday, just as the citizenry would honor White with a statue, it would honor him with one, and that the two larger-than-life bronze figures would flank a new courthouse.
The money was gathered, the statue of White was cast. But could a privately financed memorial be placed on public property? The matter was put to the voters on Nov. 4, 1902.
A Los Angeles Express editorial of Oct. 25 editorial says: “As the late Stephen M. White was best known as a lawyer the courthouse grounds would seem to be the most fitting spot for a monument in his honor.”
The Times’ Nov. 3 editorial declares:
“A vote in favor of the erection of the Stephen M. White statue on the Courthouse grounds is a vote in compliment of one of the greatest men the State of California ever produced—let us say the greatest, for it is the truth.”
Voters said “yes,” and the statue was formally dedicated on Dec. 11, 1908, before a throng of about 20,000.
The statue stood in front of the old sandstone courthouse at Temple and Broadway. That building was demolished following the 1933 earthquake in which it was damaged beyond repair, and temporary bungalows were put up—which stayed up even after they had become dilapidated.
It was Scott who proposed moving the statue to the courthouse planned for construction on First Street between Hill and Grand. The April 30, 1954 edition of the Times quotes Supervisor John Anson Ford as saying:
“Mr. Scott’s proposal immediately has a strong appeal and I believe there should be a suitable place on the new grounds where the statue could receive the continued public recognition that Sen. White’s unique contribution to the development of Los Angeles city and county deserves.”
On Oct. 31, 1958, the statue was rededicated at the northwest side of the new court building. There it stood—except for a brief trip to a storage yard during Metro Rail construction—until it was moved to San Pedro on Feb 23, 1989. It is at Cabrillo Beach off Stephen M. White Drive.
San Pedro had long desired the statue. White had led the fight for the harbor being built there, rather than at a site in Santa Monica owned by railroad interests.
It was on Oct. 11, 1967, that the statue of Scott was unveiled. It was on the Grand Street side of the courthouse, prominently situated. But the Metro Rail project in the 1980s resulted in it being moved back from a spot near the sidewalk, into an area of shrubbery and shadows.
As I discussed last week, it has lost prominence it deserves.
White was known, affectionately, among the populace of Los Angeles County as “our Steve.” Scott was nicknamed “Mr. Los Angeles.” The likeness of our Steve is gone from the prime location in front of the courthouse, an elevated grassy area ideal for a statue. Mr. Los Angeles should be moved there.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company