In MacArthur Park you’ll find a statue dedicated to the memory of the president and general manager of the Los Angeles Times.
General Harrison Gray Otis: A Man of the Times
As you drive east on Wilshire, entering the boundaries of the beleaguered MacArthur Park, you’ll notice a statue of a man in military dress standing on a rock, pointing northward. Beside him is another figure, a small boy holding up a newspaper.
These two statues honor the memory and legacy of General Harrison Gray Otis, the co-founder and owner of the Times-Mirror Company, the long-time publisher of the Los Angeles Times. As one of the early power players in Los Angeles, Otis helped helped plant the seeds that would lead to the city’s explosive growth.
Harrison Gray Otis came to Los Angeles in 1882 and agreed to take the editorial helm at the Los Angeles Daily Times. Otis had spent his life working in print and newspapers. He had been a printer’s apprentice and journalist back in his home state of Ohio and had owned a newspaper in Santa Barbara.
Within a few years he stepped up to the role of president and general manager of the Times Mirror Company, a title he held until his death in 1917. Otis was a Lincoln Republican with conservative views, and the tone of the Los Angeles Times of the day reflected his beliefs.
And he ran it with an iron fist. He brooked no dissention. He’s notorious for popularizing (perhapes even inventing) the phrase, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me.”
The Otis Group Statues
The Harrison Gray Otis statue was one of a trio known as the Otis Group of statues, all of which were sculpted by famous Russian sculptor Prince Paul Troubetzkoy.
The three statues included two we see today — one of Harrison Gray Otis pointing and one of a newspaper boy hawking a copy of the Los Angeles Times. Additionally, a third statue depicting an U.S. soldier dressed in a Spanish-American War-era uniform (a nod to the General’s military service — more on that in a moment), holding a furled flag, stood on a rock on the General’s left side.
The trio of statues was placed in Westlake Park and dedicated on August 3, 2020, three years after Otis’s death. Originally, the statues were installed right where Wilshire Boulevard ended at MacArthur Park (back then it was Westlake Park). The statue was positioned at a diagonal across the street from Otis’s home (which he named “the Bivouac”) that stood on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Park View Street.
In 1934 a causeway was built through Westlake Park (to alleviate traffic; vehicular congestion has always been a problem in Los Angeles) and Wilshire was extended into downtown. To accommodate the causeway, the Otis Group was moved about 100 feet south of its original location, where it still stands today. At some point after this move, the Spanish-American War soldier was struck by a car and removed from his pedestal, never to be displayed again.
When the Otis Group was first installed, it was oriented so that Otis pointed west (perhaps indicating progress or the promise of western expansion). But when the statues were moved in 1934, they were rotated slightly. Today Otis points in a northwesterly direction, relatively in line to where his house once stood.
In 1916, Otis gifted his home to the city of Los Angeles with the caveat that it be used for the advancement of the arts. It became the Otis College of Art and Design in 1918 and, although the house was demolished in 1950, a building housing the Otis School occupied the lot until 1997. Today it’s home to Charles White Elementary School.
Stand Fast, Stand Firm, Stand Sure, Stand True.
There are two plaques embedded in the boulder Otis stands on. One on the west side of the rock features five women holding hands in front of the Earth, the significance of which is not clear.
The other plaque, embedded on the north side at Otis’s feet, bears an inscription that reads:
General Harrison Gray Otis
1837 — 1917
Soldier, journalist, friend of freedom.
Stand fast, stand firm, stand sure, stand true.
A Newspaperman and a General
Otis volunteered for and served (with distinction) in the Union Army during the Civil War. When he left the service in 1865, he had attained a rank of captain.
When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Otis asked President McKinley to appoint him to the post of Assistant War Secretary. He was turned down, ostensibly for political reasons.
So instead, he again volunteered for a position in the army. This was granted, and he was given the title of brigadier general and placed in charge of volunteers in the Philippines.
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General Harrison Gray Otis Statue
- Wilshire Blvd (at Park View St), MacArthur Park
- 34.059476, -118.279143 [ Google Maps ]
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