The Historical Floor Plaque of La Crescenta Library
In 2010 La Crescenta was blessed with a new library. The building itself, located at La Crescenta Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, is a modern interpretation of Craftsman architecture. The interior spaces are beautifully lit by indirect natural light streaming in through strategically placed high windows. As the building was being planned, community leaders banded together to choose local artists to decorate the interior. The two major works were murals done by a local fine artist, and stained glass around the entryway. The glasswork, designed and executed by a CV stained glass shop, depicts local historical and natural elements.
A third major artwork was assigned to the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. The HSCV would fund and coordinate a bronze floor plaque for the center of the lobby. The money for the plaque came from donations by over a hundred individuals and businesses. Two local artists were chosen for the work, the husband and wife team of Bill and Geri Gould. Bill Gould grew up in CV and worked in model-making for aerospace. Geri is more than just a local girl. She is descended from the Gabrielino/Tongva Indians who lived here for thousands of years, and from the Spanish who displaced them. She was an actress before moving into painting and sculpture. Together they formed Gould Studios in 1973, and they specialize in high-relief sculptures that are cast in metal to create plaques and medallions. Two of their public works here in CV are the bicentennial plaque at the flagpole in Montrose, and the dedication plaque at the top of Tongva Peak in the Verdugo Mountains.
For the library, the Goulds came up with a beautiful design that spoke to the thousands of years of history in CV, from the Indians to the American era we’re currently in, and it was to be framed in a compass rose of inlayed stone. It was successfully installed and unveiled at the opening of the library, and is prominent as you come through the entrance. You actually walk across it as you head to the books or check-out counter.
The entire design is about six feet in diameter. Various colors of inlaid granite point out north and south, east and west. This surrounds the three-foot wide circular bronze relief. The words “La Crescenta” curve across the top of the plaque. They float above the mountains that span the background, just as our mountains span the background of CV. The images of three people are on the left side of the circle. At the top is Toypurina, a powerful female shaman, who traveled between the Indian villages in and around our valley. She led an unsuccessful revolt at San Gabriel Mission. Below her is Jose Verdugo, who was given our valley as part of a huge rancho. The land was awarded in recognition of his service as a corporal of the guard at San Gabriel Mission. Part of that service was capturing Toypurina during the revolt. Below the two is Benjamin Briggs, the man who developed the community we live in, and who coined the name La Crescenta. They represent the three periods of man’s occupation of our land – Indian, Spanish and American. It’s interesting to note that at the dedication ceremony, our guests of honor were actual descendants of Toypurina, Verdugo and Briggs.
On the left of the plaque are images of four of the building blocks of our community – housing, represented by a traditional Tongva reed house; education, represented by the original La Crescenta Elementary School; transportation, represented by a trolley car of the Glendale and Montrose Railway; and religion, represented by St. Luke’s Church. And I always remind people that intentionally unseen on the plaque, just as it is unseen in our valley, is water, the foundation of man’s presence here, and the source of our constant struggle.
The plaque has held up well in the years since its installation, the only sign of wear being a shiny spot on Benjamin Briggs’ nose. Do stop by and see the plaque. It’s a wonderful condensed image of man’s history in the Crescenta Valley.