Fresno Bee, CA
June 8 2014
Courthouse Park tells the history of Fresno
By Sevag Tateosian
I was young when I heard about him. Community members would talk as
though he was a legend, a strong fighter who had a bigger sword and a
faster horse than his enemies. He was always outnumbered in battle but
crushed those who invaded. I am referring to David of Sassoon, the
Armenian folk hero whose stories have been told for centuries. We in
Fresno have a piece of him in Courthouse Park. Actually, if you look,
our Courthouse Park is full of monuments that are special to many
folks. But, until taking lunchtime walks, I didn't know how many
diverse monuments we have.
One day I decided to walk around looking at the monuments and spent
some time thinking about them. My quest started at David of Sassoon
and I headed east along Tulare Street. My journey stopped near the
friendly operator of the catering truck, where a lunchtime crowd was
waiting for their orders. It was there I discovered a tall sculpture
similar to the one I had read about back in high school. In reviewing
the description, I learned that the sculpture was actually a gift from
the Mexican state of Hidalgo replicating the 900 A.D. sculpture of the
Toltec god Tula. Impressive -- this was a gift from a state in another
country and placed in our very own Courthouse Park.
As I glanced northeast, I found a domed monument with pillars. As I
got closer, I was impressed with its design. It reminded me of
something that would appear in an ancient European or Mediterranean
city. A quick search and I found out that it was built by a husband as
a memorial for his wife and was designed by their granddaughter.
>From there I walked over to the Fresno County Peace Officers' Memorial
and was touched by the names on the wall. Although I didn't recognize
any of them, I knew that these were people who gave their lives
protecting families like mine. Like many people, I imagine, I had
walked past it numerous times. Although I knew what it signified, I
never felt it until I took the time to think about it.
As I looked west, another large monument caught my eye. It was of a
nicely dressed gentleman on a large concrete base -- Dr. Chester
Rowell. I had seen his name on a street sign and heard of the
elementary school named after him, but I had no idea that he was a
humanitarian and the editor-publisher of The Fresno Republican
newspaper, as well as our city's fourth mayor. It was interesting to
find out that at his death, the community rallied and collected funds
to build the monument.
I was also fascinated to learn that many of the contributors for this
memorial and his urn were from Fresno's Armenian-American community.
The story goes that when they arrived in Fresno Dr. Rowell treated
them when they were ill without expecting payment in return. He also
supported the community's effort to start its own newspaper and
directed his publishing staff to assist in any way possible.
My journey that day ended in front of the monument dedicated to
William Saroyan. Although there were at least 16 more monuments I
could have visited, my lunch break was coming to an end. Saroyan
always fascinated me because of his lack of desire to be the center of
attention. His writing was read all around the world. People liked his
style, which led to him becoming a worldwide icon, yet friends of his
claim he didn't even like his picture taken. Upon doing some research,
I found that the monument was on granite imported from India and faced
one of the streets where he sold newspapers as a young boy. As I
turned around to look across the street I could imagine him with a
stack of newspapers selling to people walking around downtown.
After being more observant on my lunchtime walks at Courthouse Park, I
can say I am more educated on the history of Fresno and encourage you
to spend time there as well.
Courthouse Park tells the history of Fresno By Sevag Tateosian
Posted 09 June 2014 - 10:52 AM
Fresno Bee, CA
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