Eleanor Chambers Fountain

Historical Background

1973, Howard E. Troller, Hanns Scharff. 15'H x 25'W
The Los Angeles Mall is located in one of the earliest settled areas of Los Angeles. However, neither historic buildings nor physical objects preserve its past. Rather, public memory is promoted in three ways. Firstly, plaques recount a selective and limited history of the period immediately after the American conquest. Secondly, architectural features, such as Victorian styled lamp posts, evoke a sense of nostalgia. Finally, parts of the Mall are named after civic leaders, such as the Fletcher Bowron Square, named after a former Mayor, the Robert J. Stevenson Fountain, named after a former Councilman, and the Eleanor Chambers Fountain, named after a deputy mayor appointed to her position by former Mayor Sam Yorty. These places, however, lack symbolic references to the person or their life's work, and fail to explain why future generations should remember them. Text on plaques should fill this void but instead they tell little. For example, the plaque at the Eleanor Chambers Fountain--"Eleanor Chambers Memorial Fountain, First Deputy Mayor 1961-1972, Administrator and Benefactor, Affectionately Known by Those She Worked With as 'Mother'"-- was written by Yorty and lacks any reference to their relationship, which is the primary reason she is memorialized.

Born in Elmira, New York, the daughter of a Methodist minister, Chambers came to Los Angeles with her family in 1913. When Yorty first ran for Mayor in 1945, John B. Elliot, a wealthy oilman and confidant of Yorty, recommended that Chambers manage his campaign. Although Yorty lost that election, she managed his subsequent campaigns, including his successful races for the State Assembly in 1949 and the House seat vacated by Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950. After managing Yorty's successful race for mayor in 1961, she served as his deputy until her death in 1972.

The Eleanor Chambers Fountain was originally called the "Dan de Lion" fountain because the spray from its multiple sprinklers create a shape that is reminiscent of a dandelion. Troller incorporated this effect into the fountain after viewing a similar one in San Francisco, which was based on a fountain developed in Australia. Hanns Scharff designed the gingko pattern at the bottom of the pool, using various shades of blue mosaic tile. In January, 1973, Yorty dedicated the fountain to Chambers' memory.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, April 1998.

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