Tower of Wooden Pallets

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Tower of Wooden Pallets
Tower of Wooden Pallets circa 1953.jpg
Tower of Wooden Pallets, circa 1953
Location 15357 Magnolia Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, California
Built 1951
Architect Daniel Van Meter
Designated April 19, 1978
Reference no. 184
Site of the Tower of Wooden Pallets, now a 98-unit apartment building
Discarded junk broken pallet

The Tower of Wooden Pallets was a structure of discarded wooden pallets built by Daniel Van Meter and designated as a Historic Cultural Monument.[1][2][3] It was known as the City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument number 184 and located at 15357 Magnolia Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California.[4]

History[edit]

In 1951, Van Meter found thousands of discarded 3-by-3-foot (0.91 m × 0.91 m) standard pallets from a local Schlitz Brewing Company plant.[2] This gave him the idea of building some sort of structure from these. He gathered up five truckloads of these discarded pallets and began building a tower structure in his backyard.[1]

The bee hive cone shaped tower of some 2000 wooden pallets had a base of 22 feet (6.7 m) and ultimately rose to over twenty feet in height when finished.[2][3] Van Meter's Tower of Pallets sits on the gravesite of a child buried in 1869.[5] It took Van Meter several weeks to build the wooden tower of pallets. The top had an opening that was thirteen feet across. The "room" inside contained outdoor patio furniture.[1]

In 1953, Los Angeles county building inspectors were baffled as how to classify Van Meter's innovation. They ultimately decided it was a wooden "fence".[1] No further regulatory action was taken for over twenty years and the building department left him alone, along with his "folk art" innovation, until 1977. In that year the city fire department declared his creation "an illegally stacked lumber pile." He was instructed to tear it down. Van Meter, using some imagination, convinced the Cultural Heritage Commission and the city of Los Angeles to designate his creation a Historic Cultural Monument.[6] It was declared then as HCM Monument No. 184 in 1978.[7] This designation protected Van Meter's pile of pallets until he died or moved.[2]

Later, then-commissioner Robert W. Winter said "maybe we were drunk" when the pile was designated a monument for Van Meter's lifetime.[8] Winter said it was the funniest thing they ever did.[7] Van Meter lived to be 87 years old and died in 1998.[9] Some say Van Meter's tower of wooden pallets was one of a kind and consider him an "outside artist."[10] In 2006 the remainder of the Tower of Pallets was bulldozed. Van Meter's heirs sold the underlying land for $4.5 million; a 98-unit multi-level apartment building was built in the tower's place.[11] Supposedly, there will be a memorial display of the Tower of Pallets in the lobby of the apartment building.[10]

Van Meter was quoted as saying, when he lobbied for his tower’s landmark status:

… in a few years this piece of the good earth may be covered by apartments for the storing of surplus people. In the meantime, pray, let this strange structure be, let it continue to be a haven of rest for an individual – that endangered species – who once knew how sweet was our Valley.[1]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e No. 184 - (Site of) Tower of Wooden Pallets
  2. ^ a b c d Tower of Pallets
  3. ^ a b Richard Simon, The News-Journal Accent, Daytona Beach, Florida, May 31, 1998, 11A, "Collector finds solace in odd tower of pallets"
  4. ^ Tower of pallets no more
  5. ^ Richard Simon, "L.A.'s Pallet Pile", The Washington Post, March 30, 1988, c.04: "Van Meter, who says he is a descendant of John Quincy Adams, has been interested in history since he began picking up coins and artifacts as a child. A lifelong bachelor who has held odd jobs, he is a founder of the American Independent Party and was a supporter of former Alabama governor George Wallace's 1972 presidential campaign. Van Meter loves to talk politics. His first love appears to be collecting historical memorabilia, but his most unusual item is the tower. Constructed by Van Meter in 1951, the 22-foot-tall tower is made up of about 2,000 wooden pallets that were tossed out by a brewery. The pallets are placed in a 22-foot-wide circle and stacked on top of each other in bricklike fashion. Beneath the structure is the grave of child buried in 1869."
  6. ^ "Tower Under Legal Siege", Daily News of Los Angeles, April 7, 1996: "Daniel Van Meter pieced together his backyard tower from discarded wooden pallets back in 1951, and he has spent 45 years tending the ersatz shrine while fighting off city fire marshals and land-hungry developers. Largely waging the struggle alone, Van Meter got some help in 1978 when the city's Cultural Heritage Board deemed the "Tower of Wooden Pallets" in Sherman Oaks a historical monument."
  7. ^ a b "Does It Stack Up as Art?" Los Angeles Times Jan 26, 2005
  8. ^ Steve Harvey, "The Valley's Once-Mighty Tower of Pallets Has Fallen on Hard Times", Los Angeles Times (Home Edition); November 14, 2002, p. B4
  9. ^ Daily News of Los Angeles, May 10, 2003, "TOWER OF PALLETS MAY FACE MALLETS SHERMAN OAKS - For half a century, a tower of 2,000 wooden pallets has stood out as oddball artwork, an ode to the eccentric and an official San Fernando Valley monument that's frustrated would-be developers and won the admiration of city cultural guardians. Now the tug of war over the so-called Tower of Wooden Pallets in Sherman Oaks has intensified. Since tower architect and protector Daniel Van Meter died in 1998, his brother has pursued plans to sell the property..."
  10. ^ a b Tower of Wooden Pallets - Gone
  11. ^ Pallet monument causes heated debate / Heirs of creator want to L.A.-area parcel to developer

Bibliography[edit]

  • Los Angeles Times; Jan 23, 1938, p. A6, '"Noted Inventor Burial Planned"
  • Los Angeles Times; Feb 25, 1942, p. A1, Noble Called Racketeer by Former Associate
  • Los Angeles Times; Apr 16, 1942, p. 15, Brothers Seek Arrest in Vain
  • Los Angeles Times; Jul 6, 1942, p. 6, Noble Aids Go on Trial Today
  • Los Angeles Times; Nov 28, 1946, p. 10, Seven Denied Damages by State Board
  • Los Angeles Times; Jul 14, 1954, p. B8, Rites Set Today for Mrs. Esther Van Meter
  • Los Angeles Times; Feb 15, 1988, p. 8, Simon, Richard, Tower of Tranquility Unusual Sherman Oaks Landmarks Provides a Refuge from Turmoil
  • Los Angeles Times; Feb 19, 1988, p. 3, Simon, Richard, For a Collector, His Is an Odd Pallet
  • Los Angeles Times; Nov 14, 2002, p. B4, Harvey, Steve Only in L.A.; The Valley’s Once-Mighty Tower of Pallets Has Fallen on Hard Times
  • Los Angeles Times; Jan 26, 2005, p. Metro A1, Garrison, Jennifer Does It Stack Up as Art?