In 1777, two years after he was appointed governor of both Baja and Alta California, Felipe de Neve (1727-84) inspected the territory and recommended the formation of agricultural settlements to support recently established presidios and reinforce Spanish claims to the region. To that end, he promulgated the Reglamento in 1779, which became the basic law governing California until Spanish rule ended in 1821. Under provisions dealing with the formation of new towns, a mix of people living in northern Mexico were recruited for a settlement along the Los Angeles River, which was known as the Porciuncula. In 1781, these pioneers first trekked to the San Gabriel Mission, where Neve had arrived earlier to draw up detailed plans for establishing the new community. Finally, on September 4, 1781, planting field and house lots were distributed to the Pobladores--the 44 original settlers (26 of whom were of African descent)--officially beginning the new Pueblo de la Reina de los angeles.
Honoring the founder of Los Angeles, this $10,000 monument was commissioned in 1929 by the Native Daughters of the Golden West. Its dedication was scheduled to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Los Angeles on September 4, 1931. However, the completion of the work was delayed and it was installed in March, 1932. The statue, originally facing the Plaza Church rather than the east as it does now, stood at the center of the Plaza inside an 1873 pool named in honor of Neve. As there are no known paintings or drawings of Neve, the bronze statue portrays an idealized and romantic portrait of him. The high boots and large gloves of the uniform represent a composite of the type worn by 18th century Spanish officers known as soldados de cuera or "soldiers of leather".