Iconic Statue Restored After Years of Neglect

January 15, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

In the mid-1800s, Florence Nightingale worked tirelessly to organize and train nurses to care for English soldiers wounded during the Crimean War, setting the path for the founding of modern nursing.

A century and a half later, however, a sculpture of the nurse overlooking the lake at Lincoln Park, located just east of downtown Los Angeles, has faced its own battles, the target of vandals and graffiti taggers for years.

Lea este artículo en Español: Estatua es Restaurada Después de Años de Abandono

The statue of Florence Nightingale has been at the park for eight decades, and fell into disrepair after years of neglect and outright vandalism; its hands, nose and lamp smashed off, graffiti damaging the paint. For years, however, complaints to the city requesting the statue be restored were ignored. The city also turned down the offer from Azusa University’s nursing history conservation program to restore and relocate the statue to the school’s campus because the statue is a “city asset.”

That has now changed.

Councilman Gil Cedillo and supporters unveil the restored sculpture of Florence Nightingale at Lincoln Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Gil Cedillo and supporters unveil the restored sculpture of Florence Nightingale at Lincoln Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Last week, Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents Lincoln Heights where the park and statue are located, was joined by dozens of community members and nurses from different medical entities for the unveiling of the fully-restored nearly 9-foot tall statue, its face, hands and lamp restored to their former beauty. Graffiti was removed from the sculpture and its title-bearing plaque.

“This is an important step for us in recapturing public space,” remarked Cedillo during the ceremony.

Third generation Lincoln Heights resident Stephen Sarinana-Lampson told EGP he brought the sculpture’s disrepair to Cedillo’s attention during his 2013 campaign for office, explaining that the statue is very dear to many of those living in the area that Cedillo hoped to represent.

While few people may actually know the history behind the woman who has come to be known locally at the “lady of the lake”—including some of those at the senior center a few feet away—they are accustomed to her presence and have grown quite attached the statue, explains Sarinana-Lampson.

“This is something that my mom used to see when she was a kid and for me to be around it as I grew up too,” he said.

Sarinana-Lampson told EGP he is very happy the statue was not moved and that the local landmark is back in “all her glory.”

Florence Nightingale is a “patron saint” of sorts in the nursing profession. Her work is credited for improving unsanitary conditions at a British hospital where wounded soldiers died from infectious diseases rather than their wounds. Under her supervision, the number of soldier deaths was reduced by two-thirds.

After the war, Nightingale continued her work and wrote about her experiences, reforming the delivery of healthcare worldwide. She died in London in 1910.

The renovated statue depicts a nurse Florence Nightingale. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The renovated statue depicts a nurse Florence Nightingale. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The sculpture by David Edstrom was commissioned during the New Deal Era of the 1930s by the Federal Art Project and sponsored by the Hospital Council of Southern California.

It was then given as a gift to the City of Los Angeles and with the approval of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Commission, it was accepted into the City’s Art Collection in 1937.

Work to restore the statue was started in the summer of 2014 and took 6-8 weeks to complete, according to Felicia Filer, director of Public Art for the City of Los Angeles.

However, a few days before its scheduled unveiling in September of last year, it was vandalized again, Filer told EGP.

“We brought the conservationists back up and worked internally on a project to prevent that from occurring again,” she said, adding that the total conservation cost was $20,350.

Cedillo does not think fencing off the statue to keep it from being vandalized again is a good idea, and told EGP he hopes people will understand that all the sculptures and memorials at Lincoln Park are a part of history and should be maintained for generations to come.

“I’m trusting that the pride of the community, the vigilance of the community, will be enough to persuade people from coming and disrespecting the public space,” he said.

Cedillo told EGP that the restoration is just one of the many improvements his office is working with the Departments of Recreations and Parks and Cultural Affairs to bring about at the park, which also includes a recreation center, swimming pool, and the Plaza de La Raza cultural and art center.

The councilman said plans call for re-opening the closed swimming pool, fixing the sidewalks around the park, adding more parking for employees, cleaning restrooms and restoring other sculptures and memorials at the park, including The Wall Las-Memorias HIV/AIDS memorial.

“We will transform this [park] back to what it should be; public recreation where people can come and have some solace,” he said. The park is one of the city’s many “gems,” said Cedillo, noting it has been enjoyed by generations of Angelenos.


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