Garces Statue and Traffic Circle - Bakersfield, CA
Posted by: fresgo
N 35° 23.194 W 119° 01.129
11S E 316638 N 3917783
Quick Description: In the Garces Circle at North Chester Street and State Route 204 (Former US 99) in Bakersfield, CA.
N35 23 11.6 W119 01 07.7
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 5/11/2008 9:47:28 AM
Waymark Code: WM3RGR
US Route 99 once followed Union Avenue into the city of Bakersfield from the south and then turned to the northwest along Golden State Boulevard at its intersection with Chester Street and 24th Street. The area is known to locals as Westchester. The Garces Traffic Circle was built by the Division of Highways in 1935 as the neighborhood began to grow and traffic along the highway was increasing. The circle was used for years as a public park.
Padre Francisco Garces is said to have been the first person of European descent to visit the San Joaquin Valley of California. Garces was a Franciscan priest sent to find routes through the area and potential inland mission sites. The Statue and Traffic Circle are listed as California State Historical Landmark #277.
After its construction residents of the city saw the circle's promise as a Gateway to the city and through the Works Progress Administration, Artist Juan Paulo-Kangas was commissioned to create a statue/memorial to Garces at the center of the circle. The site was thought to be that of an historical Native American Village which Garces may have visited. (The village was later found to be located a mile north.
In 1955, with traffic congestion still a problem a bridge was constructed over the circle and the statue was moved to its current location 55 feet from the center. In the early 1960s US Route 99 was decommissioned and displaced, sadly, by a new facility State Route 99 a few mile west of the circle and the former route was rechristened State Route 204
In 2009 construction will begin on a new bridge as the existing structure is aging and even though it largely serves local traffic - traffic remains to increase. The statue is to remain in place with a protective structure while allowing the public to view the statue during th two-year construction schedule.