McFadden Square Monument Unveiled – Not What I Expected

McFadden Square Monument Unveiling

I’ve been back in Newport Beach for just about two weeks now, and the city threw me a little welcoming ceremony shown above that was most kind. Ah, shucks. Heh. In seriousness, today was the unveiling of the long-anticipated McFadden Square Centennial Legacy Project. If you want to learn a bit more about Newport Beach, the McFadden Wharf, how it became McFadden Square and the disappointing monument they unveiled today, well, read on!

Back around 1875, two brothers — the McFadden brothers — bought a wharf landing on the Balboa Peninsula. The goal was to produce the area into a major shipping port, but for various reasons, that never happened. For more history, check out this page.

Instead, the area turned into a tourist destination. McFadden Square sits at the base of the Newport Pier, once the site of the wharf itself. If it’s square-like, it’s hard to see that. Instead, it’s sort of a sprawling open area between the pier and the nearby shops, where you can sit or dodge the rollerbladers and bicyclers (who are supposed to walk their bikes, but no one does). My The Piers Of Newport Beach Vs. The Pier Of The OC talks a bit more about this area, where is also a good place to spot the Birdman:

Birdman Of Newport (Cropped)

I was thrilled to hear last year that the square was being redeveloped. Apparently it’s the 100th anniversary of something related to the area (exactly what is unclear to me, and the centennial site isn’t a great help).

The artist illustration of what was to come looked cool. A big golden ball in the middle of a bunch of stone benches, large walking areas and so on. Nice, the area could use that type of facelift!

Today was the unveiling of the monument in the center of the plaza. Free donuts! That was cool, but I resisted. Aside from that, it was a lot of long-winded speeches along with what seemed a lot of old pompous Newport.

OK, there were a lot of people who clearly love Newport and feel good to be adding to the history and recognition of the area. But where were the surfers? Where were the beach people? The lifeguards? Hell, the police who keep order? The business people who run the shops that the area revolves around. Why the hell was the Birdman out on the periphery when he himself is a living monument in the area?

I wanted a fun ceremony — music, balloons flying in the air, no speeches and no VIP check-in area (seriously, VIP check-in?). Instead, lots of speeches. On and on. And then two guys jerking the tarp off the top of the monument, and that’s it. All done. So quick I couldn’t even snap a shot off. But here’s the ball all covered up (look behind the California flag):

McFadden Square Monument Unveiling

And the monument? Where was that golden ball I was promised in the picture? Hell, how about one of those giant marble balls that float on water that the kids can push. Nope, nothing like that. Instead, I got a ball that looks like it was ordered by committee:

McFadden Square Monument

The artist, Hank Kaminsky, was at the ceremony, and it was discussed how much time he spent getting to know Newport. Then apparently, all of it was rendered into this green ball that doesn’t feel inspirational at all. I mean look at this shot:

McFadden Square Monument

About 1/4 of the top of the ball is taken up by these lines:

Remembering the Past
Acknowledging the Present
Looking Toward the Future

Really, “Acknowledging the Present?” What’s that mean? “Hello, Present — glad to acknowledge you’re in attendance today.”

I suppose if you don’t know the area, you might find it cool to read about all the history stuff on it, some of which is nicely rendered. But I guess I’d have rather had the historical events depicted “off ball” with the orb itself uncluttered and — well, I thought the golden ball was a good idea.

Here are a few more shots of the ball:

McFadden Square Monument

McFadden Square Monument

What I liked far more is the plaza the ball sits in. There are squares with footprints:

McFadden Square Monument Plaza

That lead to various events in Newport’s history:

McFadden Square Monument Plaza

Like I said, maybe it would have been nicer for the events themselves to have been illustrated on the ground in the plaza, rather than up on the ball.

We’ll see how the area takes to it. It’s nice to have something, and the kids in the crowd did gather around. And later in the evening, more people were wandering and looking too.

For more, the Daily Pilot has a nice video of the unveiling (prefaced by a commercial for the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum and how it asks you to “imagine” how great it would be if it wiped out the Newport Beach Funzone — a rant for a later date). You can watch it here:


  1. says

    Danny, Thank you for attending Monday’s dedication. I’m sorry neither my husband nor I had the chance to shake your hand personally and to say hello. More than 100 years ago my husband’s great grandfather (one of the McFadden brothers illustrated on the globe) built a wharf to bring lumber to the area for new homesteaders. There is, of course, much more history to share which might make the “square” (which does look round) more significant to those who do not know the depth of the past which made the event so special. Though we did not ask for it, the VIP sign in was for McFadden family members whom the Newport City Council and Legacy Committee did not know existed until they began to work on this project. The members wanted to make sure they had a log of family members in attendance so that at some point in the future they may be able to gather more information about the history and stories related thereto. We did not have any input on the design of the sculpture. If we did, I think I would have suggested one with water as you mention. If you would ever like to know more about the dedication and hard work of the McFadden Clan (Scottish term), please get in touch with us. Perhaps we can bring a little more human factor to ponder the next time you or someone else touches the cluttered orb.

  2. Carrie Hill says

    Hmm – not to be a snot or anything – (okay a little snotty) but it looks like a lump of clay or “worlds largest wad of chewing gum.”
    I do like the footprints and stuff that’s engraved in the “path” though

  3. says

    Thank you for this great post, and pictures!

    I especially enjoyed seeing the comment left by the wife of a McFadden Descendant.

    I have just written about my own visit to the spot yesterday, on my on blog, and found your story while doing a Google for more info. ;-D

    The interesting thing, for me, about the area down there, aside from the great places to eat, and the great walking/biking trail, is that there is an ancient hotel, on the north end of the boardwalk, that was where my parents spent their honeymoon at in 1957. ;-D

    I’ll be adding your blog to my sidebar list of fellow OC Bloggers. ;-D