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Markers & Sculptures on Historic Courthouse Park

In 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad laid out the townsite of Fresno Station, the railroad owners offered the citizens a four-block parcel at the corner of O and Fresno streets as a site for a park and a future courthouse. The people of the town felt it was too far away from the business district on H Street. No one wanted to walk such a great distance through wild lupine and tumbleweeds. They asked the railroad owners if, instead, they could have four blocks closer to H Street. They were given four blocks at Mariposa and L streets. In 1874, the county seat moved to Fresno and construction of a courthouse in the park’s center began.

For all these intervening years, Courthouse Park has been the center of county government, but it also has been a place where couples courted, where friends met, where band concerts were held, and where public meetings took place. It was here that the funeral for Dr. Rowell was held. It was here that the community gathered for a service of Thanksgiving at 2 a.m. on November 11, 1918, when World War I ended.

Courthouse Park carries its generic name because it is the park for all the people. Within its shaded walks are memorials for individuals and for events that shaped Fresno County.

Fresno Memorial Plaque — 1954
The Fresno County Historical Society erected the plaque, which tells the history of the Fresno area from the time when it was a complete wilderness until the 1950s. The history was written by Robert M. Wash, past president of the Society, a historian and county counsel at the time. The large piece of granite to which the plaque is anchored came from a quarry near Raymond, northwest of Madera.

Checker Boards — 1937-1938
The tables recall a time when checker playing in Courthouse Park was a popular pastime, and occasional tournaments were held there. The tables were installed after a group of local checker players, headed by James Bogan, lobbied the Board of Supervisors to provide adequate and permanent playing equipment. Before the installation, players had to use boards positioned on top of garbage cans.

Viva Liberation Monument — 1949
The monument commemorates the liberation of Europe by Allied Forces in WWII. It is a replica of markers placed every kilometer along the 888-mile “Road to Liberty” the Allies followed in fighting that began on the beaches of Normandy in France and led to Bastogne in Belgium. A time capsule was stored within the monument at its dedication on Armistice Day in 1949 by the 40 & 8 veterans organization and opened as instructed “Nov. 11, 2000 A.D. by the oldest surviving member of the 40/8”.

Homer Blevins Flagpole — 1966
The flagpole was donated by the Disabled American Veterans Homer Blevins Chapter #1 as a memorial to all those who gave their lives in defense of the United States. The Chapter is the first established in California and was named in honor of Homer Blevins who was the first Fresno soldier killed in American forces overseas in 1918.

Hmong Memorial Statue — 2005
Bernhard Heer
The 6-foot bronze statue depicting two Hmong soldiers rescuing a wounded American pilot honors thousands of Hmong guerrilla fighters enlisted by the CIA during the Vietnam War. Many fighters settled in the Central Valley after the war, and today Fresno is home to one of the largest Hmong populations outside of Laos.

E Clampus Vitus Plaque — 1974
The plaque commemorates the centennial of moving the Fresno County seat from Millerton to Fresno. It was erected by members of the James D. Savage Chapter No. 1852, E Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the history of California, in particular the history of the Mother Lode and gold mining regions of the state.

Earth is a Sculpture Fountain — 1965
Carroll Barnes
The blue-tiled fountain serves as a metaphor in stone and water, incorporating the Sierra mountain range, Valley floor and local legacy of growth and harvest in a contemporary sculpture.

Virginiana Oak — 1981
The tree was dedicated on California Arbor Day by the Foresters of America Court Yosemite #72.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Bust — 1988
Jame Zerl Smith
The slain civil rights leader was the first human being since 1914 (see Chester Rowell Memorial) and the first non-Fresnan to be remembered with a statue in the park. An art student attending California State University, Fresno created the bronze bust set on a marble foundation for a project spearheaded by the city of Fresno’s Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Committee.

Haig Ohannesian Flagpole, — 1966
The flagpole was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Karl Ohannesian in honor of their son, U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant, Haig Ohannesian. Their son was a resident of Sanger.

Peace Officers Memorial — 1999
The locally quarried black Academy granite marker contains the names of dozens of local law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty. Measuring six feet high by 18-1/2 feet wide and weighing 12,000 pounds, the marker is one of the nation’s largest law enforcement memorials. Peace officers and community members gather at the site each year for a tribute ceremony to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Chester Rowell Memorial — 1914
Haig Patigian
Chester Rowell (1844-1912) was a pioneer Fresno doctor, humanitarian, mayor, state senator and editor-publisher of The Fresno Republican, which was the city’s second daily newspaper. The memorial stands across the street from his onetime family home, now occupied by the Rowell Building, and faces the newspaper building.

Fresno Bicentennial Oak — 1976
The stately Virginia Oak bears a commemorative granite marker recognizing it as the city’s official Bicentennial tree. The tree variety was selected for its longevity and is capable of living beyond the observance of the nation’s Tricentennial.

William Saroyan Monument — 1988
Varaz Samuelian
William Saroyan (1908-1981) was a Fresno-born award-winning author and playwright. The monument features a bronze relief of Saroyan's face adorning the top half of a 30-inch-wide slab made of the darkest granite on earth, which was imported from India and is the same material used in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The monument faces one of the street corners where Saroyan is said to have sold newspapers as a boy.

Braceros Memorial — 2002
The monument honors the men who came from Mexico beginning in 1942 and toiled as farm laborers and railroad workers. It was given to Fresno County on the 60th anniversary of the signing of a treaty between the United States and Mexico that allowed Mexican laborers to cross into America.

Benito Juarez Statue — 2002
The statue is a six foot-tall replica of Benito Juarez of Oaxaca (1806-1872), one of Mexico’s earliest presidents and the only one of full-blooded Indian ancestry. The 600-pound bronze statue was a gift from the governor of Oaxaca and Frente Indigena Oaxaqueno Binacional, a Fresno-based advocacy group.

Atlante de Tula Sculpture — 1980
The sculpture is a replica of a 900 A.D. sculpture of the Toltec god Tula. It was a gift to Fresno from the Mexican state of Hidalgo.

Purple Heart Memorial — 2006
The granite monument is dedicated to recipients of the nation’s oldest military decoration, which was established by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The monument includes the Purple Heart insignia and the words “the medal I bear is my country’s way to show they care.” It is the 10th such memorial in California among more than 130 Purple Heart memorials throughout the nation.

Anna Woodward Memorial Fountain — 1921
Atha Woodward
Oscar J. Woodward, a Fresno banker and community leader, built the fountain as a memorial to his wife, Anna. The fountain was designed by Anna’s granddaughter, Atha. At first, it was located on the “Earth is a Sculpture” fountain site but was moved to its present location, closer to the intersection of “L” and Tulare Street, in 1967.

The Boy with the Leaking Boot Fountain — Erected 1895, Recast 1947
Daniel Nichols

The picturesque fountain featuring a statue cast from pewter served as Fresno’s first public drinking fountain. Tin cups attached by chains to eight faucets provided water for the public. The fountain was a gift from the Salvation Army and purchased with the aid of donations from Fresnans. It originally stood at the Van Ness and Mariposa entrance to the park in front of the original Fresno County Courthouse. After twenty years of storage due to damage, the statue re-emerged and was recast in 1947. Over the years, the boy “lost” his boot and eventually the statue was moved to its current location in the courtyard of the Fresno County Plaza building. Today, it remains a beloved reminder of a bygone era in Fresno’s history.

David of Sassoon — 1971
Varaz Samuelian
The two-1/2 ton copper statue representing justice and freedom depicts Armenian folk hero, David, astride his rearing horse, Jalai. Symbols of Armenian cultural history are carved in the base. The sculptor was born in Yeravan, Armenia and came to Fresno in 1957.

Brotherhood of Man Memorial — 1968
Clement Renzi
This semi-abstract bronze statue is dedicated to Monsignor James G. Dowling, Rabbi David L. Greenberg and the Very Reverend Dean James M. Malloch, the three men who created the KMJ radio program “Forum for Better Understanding,” which featured discussions of religious concepts and social issues. The statue was cast in Verona, Italy using a “lost wax” technique.

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