All Over The Map: Rededicating Neil Armstrong Plaza in Edmonds
Saturday is, of course the 50th anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong becoming the first human to walk on the moon. To mark the occasion, there are celebrations taking place all over the world, notably around here at the Museum of Flight, where they have the “Columbia” command module flown by the Apollo 11 astronauts. The museum will have music and other festivities for a “Lunar Block Party.”
And on Saturday morning, I’ll be helping out with a group of volunteers in Edmonds where a monument and part of a parking lot that makes up “Neil Armstrong Plaza” is rededicated with a ceremony at 9 a.m.
You say you haven’t heard of Neil Armstrong Plaza in Edmonds? Not many people have.
Neil Armstrong Plaza is behind the Edmonds Police Station. It features an 11-foot tall, 3000-pound concrete monolith created by artist Howard Duell, the same artist who helped develop the original brass fountain in downtown Edmonds back in the 1970s. The “plaza” is more of a parking lot these days, and the monolith to Armstrong and Apollo XI looks not unlike a giant concrete fudgesicle.
Officially, the City of Edmonds website says that the monolith features a “detailed bronze inlay [that] depicts Neil Armstrong and the American flag on the moon on one side, and Apollo 11 on the other side.”
Neil Armstrong Plaza was originally dedicated by US Representative Lloyd Meeds and other dignitaries at high noon on July 4, 1976.
That was the big American Bicentennial year, of course, and many communities had special celebrations. But the event in Edmonds got a little bit more attention than a regular old parade or even a big fireworks show, as Governor Dan Evans also declared July 4, 1976 as “Neil Armstrong Plaza Day” here in the Great State of Washington.
Neil Armstrong Plaza
According to MyEdmondsNews, this all came about because of a young man from Edmonds named Dennis Clark. It’s believed he was a 1975 Edmonds High School graduate, but that’s a little bit unclear. Clark and other students felt that commemorating the moon landing and Neil Armstrong was a perfect bicentennial project. They lead the effort to get funding, and get all the necessary permissions.
This included, perhaps not surprisingly, writing a letter to Neil Armstrong. And what was the lunar hero’s response?
“As a matter of policy, I do not encourage or prohibit the use of my name on public places or buildings,” Armstrong wrote.
And it’s unclear to me if Neil Armstrong Plaza ever really caught on as a thing; I’m not sure Edmondsians (Edmondsites?) ever said “let’s meet at Neil Armstrong, and we’ll go from there.” But the monolith and the plaza sat unmolested for almost 22 years until June 1998. At that time, a remodeling project began at the old Edmonds Civic Center; and the monolith went away.
Apparently, people started to notice that the monolith was gone. One person who noticed and who wondered aloud about it was Dennis Clark’s father, another was former Edmonds Mayor Laura Hall.
According to MyEdmondsNews, “Others in Edmonds began to hear the news. Former civic leader Laura Hall, who once served as mayor of Edmonds, perhaps speaks for many local citizens with long memories when she says she was ‘horrified’ after looking in the [Five Corners] fire station’s yard.”
As it turned out, the giant concrete fudgesicle was in a storage yard next to the fire station at Five Corners.
Laura Hall was quoted saying: ‘There was Neil Armstrong, the man who walked on the moon, lying on the ground, among the weeds.”
But, much like the Apollo astronauts were returned safely from the moon, the monolith was returned safely from the weeds alongside the Five Corners fire station. And it was reinstalled and rededicated, albeit in a slightly different location than where it originally stood, on April 20, 2001.
Enough people knew about who and what the monument represented that flowers were laid there when Neil Armstrong passed away in 2012.
Neil Armstrong Plaza Rededication Ceremony
Parking lot behind Edmonds Police Station
Saturday, July 20 at 9 a.m.