Gerrie Schipske

Columnist Gerrie Schipske is being presented in this space to make her case as to “Why a civic center historic preservation committee needs to be established right away:

It’s a done deal. The current 40-year-old city hall and main library are set for demolition, as is the surrounding plaza and Lincoln Park. By 2019, the new structures should be completed at a cost of $540 million.

In the meantime, no one seems to be focused on preserving the many historic items that are contained around city hall, the library and the park. For instance, the plaza contains numerous plaques noting the dedication of the 1977 structures as well as the celebration of the city’s centennial in 1997.

The library has the cornerstone that was laid for the city’s library funded by Andrew Carnegie in 1908. The cornerstone was found by accident during an inventory of the city’s old Public Works Department on the west side several years back. Covered in dirt and surrounded by weeds, the granite cornerstone was cleaned off and placed in a small garden space in the Main Library.

In Lincoln Park, stands the statue of Abraham Lincoln that was unveiled in July 1915 and is a copy of the Lincoln figure in Chicago sculpted by Augustus St. Gaudens. The monument was the project of the Grand Army of the Republic – veterans of the Civil War. It was funded by the collection of coins by Miss Carrie Drake. It took the Citizens Monument Association 10 years to raise the necessary funds for the eight-ton granite statue. Chiseled by the Long Beach Monument Works (locate near the Municipal Cemetery), which was managed by F.F. Brittain, the statue included the names of famous Civil War commanders and the battles in which they fought. A replica of a Springfield musket used in the Battle of Chickamauga is on the base.

The official dedication ceremony was so important that President Wilson and naval secretary Josephus Daniels sent the gunboat USS Chattanooga, offshore Long Beach and provided two 21-gun salutes for the ceremony. Pacific Park was renamed Lincoln Park in 1920.

A cannon was sent by the Benicia Arsenal for the dedication ceremonies. A cannon from the arsenal at Bencia was shipped to the city and placed next to the statue. The cannon weighed 9,461 pounds and was an authentic Civil War artillery piece dating back to 1841. According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War that cannon was painted white and taken to Seaport Village near Parker’s Lighthouse.

In the plaza promenade a plaque was at the base of the “gold star” and a “blue star” flags. They were placed there in 2013, making Long Beach the first city to display at city hall, these flags honoring those families who sons and daughters are in service and those who have died in service. The plaque and flags are already gone as are several other plaques that have been ripped off the plaza wall.

Please, city hall. Have a committee that catalogs and then preserves the history that is there. Do it before it is too late and we find the Lincoln statue painted and greeting visitors at the convention center parking lot.


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