Ben Franklin Statue
In an out-of-the-way corner of Glendale’s Exchange, you’ll find a bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin sitting alone on a bench.
For more than 30 years Ben Franklin, wearing his trademark shoulder-length hair along with a pair of small spectacles, has been holding court in downtown Glendale. For most of those three decades, he sat peaceably on his bench in front of a multi-tiered fountain in a central courtyard. At some point in more recent years he seems to have wandered a bit, over to an unassuming spot just outside Zono Sushi. Maybe he was hungry.
This Ben Franklin Statue has the distinction of being the the first public art in Glendale’s downtown business district. Back in 1990, the Glendale City Council decided that public art was important and any new developments in the downtown business district needed to incorporate some form of public art. The Council even set aside a budget of $100,000 a year to build a city arts program.
But Glendale didn’t have to pay for Ben Franklin — the Howard-Platz Group, developer of the Exchange, purchased the Franklin statue for $33,000 and donated it to the city in November 1990. The statue was created by Colorado-based sculptor George Wayne Lundeen in 1987. If you look closely, you can see Lundeen’s signature on the edge of Franklin’s coat (the right side when looking at the statue).
Observant types may notice that Ben’s posture looks a little weird. His left hand is extended, palm and fingers pointing downward in an unnatural fashion. Similarly, his right hand, draped casually over the back of the bench, appears as if it should be holding something. And indeed it should.
Originally, the esteemed Mr. Franklin held a cane in his left hand and a copy of the unfurled Declaration of Independence (although some reports label it as the U.S. Constitution) in his right. He was also accompanied by two pigeons — one perched, one alighting — on the top of his bench. Even the left temple of his glasses has gone missing.
All that “extra stuff” went missing sometime in the early 2000s. The general consensus is that these items were absconded with to be sold for scrap. You can still see the feet of the bird that was perched on top of the bench.
You can see a picture of the Ben Franklin Statue complete with all its accouterments at Artnet.
Before Rick Caruso came along with his Americana down the street, the Exchange was a happening spot in downtown Glendale. Now it’s all but a ghost town of papered-over windows and empty alleys. But old Ben still sits on his bench, holding an invisible relic from the early days of U.S. history. He looks like he could use a little company. So next time you’re wandering through the alleys of Glendale, swing by, take a seat, and spend some time with Ben Franklin.
This Ben Franklin Statue is only one of 21 cast versions. Other editions of this same statue can be found in Kansas City, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Holland, Michigan; Alexandria, Virginia; and Independence, Ohio.
For more details and some (very small) images of what the statue looks like with cane, historic documentation, and pigeons, visit the Smithsonian’s Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture.
Ben Franklin Statue
- The Exchange, Glendale (130 N Brand) (in front of Zono Sushi)
- GPS Coordinates: 34.147903, -118.254278 [ Google Maps ]
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