A group of city officials lead by Councilman Ed Reyes this morning rededicated the Lincoln Park Gateway, an Art Deco-style ceremonial entrance on the north edge of Lincoln Park. Visitors and longtime Lincoln Heights residents admired newly restored and rebuilt tilework, fountains, walls and lanterns that had been destroyed, vandalized and poorly maintained over the decades since the gateway was built off Valley Boulevard in 1933. “It was really sad,” said Pilar Godoy, 72, who used to cross across the park to attend Lincoln High School. “Now it’s back like it used to be. It’s beautiful.” But some Lincoln Heights residents also wondered how long the gateway will remain in its pristine state – thanks to a $390,000 renovation – before the vandals arrive.
“How do we maintain it?” said E. Michael Diaz, who has been involved in Lincoln Heights history and preservation. “Unfortunately that’s the big issue.”
It’s not uncommon for many restored and relatively fragile city landmarks and monuments to be quickly vandalized and damaged by taggers, careless skateboarders and thieves. The hands of the Lady of the Lake statue in Echo Park, for example, have been broken off several times since it was restored and returned to public view in 1999.
The Lincoln Heights Gateway itself fell victim to decades of vandalism and neglect. One section of wall that forms a seating area had been ripped out and the remaining walls covered with multiple coats of paint to cover tagging. A fountain facing Valley Boulevard was filled in with dirt and chunks of decorative tile and been damaged by skateboarders, scratched or removed. A ceramic drinking fountain had been turned into an ash tray.
Diaz and Frank Wada of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council said there had been talk about repairing and restoring the gateway, financed from a Depression-era bond fund, since the 1980s. Last year, Reyes’ council office jumped on the chance to repair the gateway with Prop. 40 bond funds. But the city had to act fast to use or lose those funds. In only four months, a team of city workers, restoration specialists, artisans and engineers scrambled to clean up, design and rebuild the monument in a away that complied with historic landmark standards. Not only did the team finish the project ahead of schedule, the gateway renovation came in at more than $180,000 under budget.
“The workers wanted to match the craftsmanship of the 1930s,” said Bill Lee, senior architect with the city’s Bureau of Engineering.
But how to protect such period craftsmanship? Without round-the-clock security, the gateway is certain to get tagged or even worse. Residents need to call in tagging and and keep an eye out for vandals, said Diaz and Wada. But architectural historian Colleen Davis, who worked on the project, is also counting on some neighborhood pride to provide at least some protection for the newly renovated gateway.
“You hope that there is a pride in the restoration,” Davis said. The gateway “links us to people who came before us.”
“Before” photos in the gallery are from the City of Los Angeles.
Update: A spokeswoman for Councilman Reyes provided more details on steps taken to respond to vandalism:
“It’s very troubling that some choose to tag or vandalize art, walls or fixtures that celebrate our great historic neighborhoods. To address this, Councilmember Reyes continues to work with Central City Action Committee (CCAC) to address graffiti issues. Staff from CCAC, Recreation and Parks, and our office make regular drive throughs to monitor the area as well. Graffiti will be reported immediately. Anyone who sees graffiti-tagging at the Lincoln Park Gateway, or anywhere in L.A., is encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report it, or go on the following site. They can also call our Field Office at (213) 485-0763 about graffiti or other concerns in our district.”