Beneficial Plaza and Liberty Park
Beneficial Plaza and Liberty Park has been a fixture of the Koreatown community for over 50 years and represents one of Los Angeles’ most significant cultural landscapes on corporate property. It tells a remarkable story of postwar development in which a corporate business allowed the ideals of aesthetics and community open space to guide the design of a headquarters project. Beneficial Plaza and Liberty Park is locally designated as Historic-Cultural Monument #1157 and has been identified as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
When Beneficial’s new headquarters was completed in 1967, the concept of dedicating private corporate property as community open space, particularly on a major commercial corridor such as Wilshire, was unprecedented. Liberty Park remains the only landscaped community space on corporate property along Wilshire Boulevard.
Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Company and its founders recognized the general lack of landscaping around office buildings on Wilshire and wanted to prevent the Wilshire Center business district from becoming “another high-rise asphalt jungle.”
In planning its headquarters, founder Edward D. Mitchell and son and CEO of Beneficial Insurance, Joseph N. Mitchell, decided on a 315-foot setback for the office tower (reported in the LA Times as the deepest setback of any major office building in the nation at the time) and created the 2.5 acre Liberty Park as an asset to the community and the aesthetics of Wilshire Boulevard.
The 11-story Late Modern office tower and Liberty Park were conceived as a unified, cohesive design, which was collaboratively designed by master architects Gordon Bunshaft and Edward Charles Bassett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and noted landscape architect Peter Walker, FASLA, of Sasaki, Walker & Associates.
Peter Walker, who also designed the National 9/11 Memorial at the Word Trade Center site, created a sophisticated symmetrical design for Liberty Park that incorporates a hardscaped plaza, a lush lawn, and an off-centered grove of Canary Island pines. A horseshoe-shaped border and promenade frames the central lawn and opens to embrace Wilshire Boulevard. The plaza contains an exact replica of the Liberty Bell cast by the same London foundry and in the same molds as the original.
Beneficial Plaza was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1967 and served as the headquarters of Beneficial Standard Life Insurance through 1985, when the property was sold and the insurance firm was acquired by CalFed, Inc. The property is now known as Wilshire Park Place and is owned by Jamison Properties, Inc.
The Conservancy featured the site on our 2016 tour of Koreatown, as well as in our 2010 people’s choice poll, the Top 60 of the ‘60s. The poll was part of an initiative by the Conservancy and our Modern Committee, The Sixties Turn 50, which raised awareness of Los Angeles County’s rich legacy of 1960s architecture.