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In the Pipeline: Hidden monument to the people

January 02, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Rendering of a monument to the people's defeat of a large tower at Warner and Springdale.
Rendering of a monument to the people's defeat of… (HB Independent )

Since the New Year starts off with my 300th In The Pipeline column, I thought we'd go back to the beginning for an update.

Column No. 1 involved a mysterious landmark, a black, granite tombstone at Springdale Street and Warner Avenue, in the bushes behind the Arco station. Its text reads: "In recognition of Lloyd Wright's 94-foot-high sign tower that was to have been erected on this spot. Its defeat is symbolic of the democratic process in which we live. The people did not wish this sign tower to be erected as they felt it was not needed and would blight their community. Their wishes were heard and adhered to by the developer, Stanley Fann. — 1970"

I'd seen it for years and decided to kick things off by trying to figure out what it all meant. As you might recall, my investigation brought me, luckily to Los Angeles-based multi-media artist (and architect aficionado) Patrick Tierney. Years earlier he had tracked down the center's developer, Stanley Fann, and learned all about the story of how Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., son of the famed American architect, came to Huntington Beach back in the late 1960s to design the Westfair Shopping Center (and the adjoining gas station).

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As for the tower, Tierney explained to me in 2007 that locals vehemently protested the idea of a 94-foot behemoth in their neighborhood, thwarting the plans of the great architect. The tombstone was placed, in Tierney's words, as "A 500-pound, permanent proclamation of victory of the People."

I've always wondered what the tower would have looked like. The developer, Stanley Fann told me back then that it was designed to look like an oil derrick, in honor of the city's "crude" history. Well, thanks to Tierney, now I know what it would have looked like, as do you, because he has shared Wright's original concept sketch (which he purchased from Fann).

I find it quite bizarre, less like an oil derrick and more like some sort of futuristic transmission tower. But of course I wanted Tierney's learned opinion.

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