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Pershing Square

532 S Olive St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Cruising Area
1920 1969
Pershing Square, 1951 Back

Constructed in 1866 as La Plaza Abaja, Pershing Square is the largest park in Downtown Los Angeles. It was a meeting ground for gay men for much of the 20th century.

Pershing Square was the center of "The Run," a circuit of gay-friendly establishments and cruising spots that served in the 1920s through the 1960s as what the book Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians calls "the premier homosexual spot." But it was also a centralized place where people could meet and socialize in the absence of a strong out gay community. The Run included the Central Library, the bar at the Biltmore Hotel, and the Subway Terminal Building's bathrooms.

Social disapproval of The Run, along with the general perception that downtown was “blighted,” might have been a factor in the decision to prescribe the open-heart surgery of urban renewal for Pershing Square and Bunker Hill.

In 1951, the park was ripped out to make way for a three-level, subterranean parking garage. Access ramps and stairwells replaced the greenery, but for a thin layer of turf atop the concrete. Some of the palms that were dug up were moved to brand-new Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise — a fittingly ironic fate, as, like Disneyland, the new square was part of the machine of suburbanization remaking Southern California, built around the private automobile.

Pershing Square, 1951