One of L.A.’s biggest historic monuments is getting a new lease on life

Phillip Dane

One of L.A.’s biggest historical monuments is about to come out of hiding after 40 years. The Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial recognizes a battalion of U.S. Army volunteers who marched from Iowa to protect the city during the Mexican-American War. The monument itself is giant—400 feet of brick and sculpture—and includes a 77-foot water feature that was turned off in 1977. You’ve probably driven by it, even if you didn’t notice it. It’s on Hill Street, where Chinatown meets the rest of DTLA. Now, L.A. County has allocated the funds to restore the marker, switch the fountain on and bring the monument back to life.

The Mexican-American war started in 1846 when the U.S. decided it wanted to call Texas its own. From there, two years of fighting broke out across the southwest. Local “Californios” were fighting with American forces in Los Angeles when the Mormon Battalion—the only religious battalion in U.S. Army history—was sent to L.A. to build a fort and protect the city. By the time they arrived, fighting was largely over, but the fort was still constructed to maintain order. An American flag was raised at the fort on July 4, 1847. That ceremony is the subject matter of the memorial that still stands on the site.

If that historical incident seems slightly obscure for such a massive monument, it might be explained by the fact that many of the soldiers—along with the women and children they brought along on the march—decided to settle around Southern California and, generations later, several of their descendants had gone on to be prominent figures in mid-20th Century Los Angeles, including one Dorothy Chandler, according to the L.A. Times. In 1958, their ancestors got their monument. 

The same conservationist who oversaw the recent restorations of the Hall of Justice and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, Donna Williams, will manage the Fort Moore project. Some updates to the original design will be made, including refashioning the water feature to just a modest layer of water rather than a full-on waterfall.

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