Tower of Wooden Pallets (Gone)
Sherman Oaks, California
Tower of Wooden Pallets builder Dan Van Meter died in 2000, age 87. In 2005, plans were finally afoot to demolish the tower to make way for apartments. A dispute raged, because back in 1978 some wags in the LA Cultural Heritage Commission managed to get the tower on an official list as Monument No. 184.
It appeared to be the classic stand-off between folk art loving preservationists and developers brought in by relatives ready to reap their inheritance from the property. A recent city planning impact report ruled out any special designation or protected historical, cultural or environment status for the Tower -- though its authors grudgingly admitted some might consider Van Meter an "outside artist" and that "the Tower is one of a kind."
This dreamer had his fans. But no doubt -- Van Meter was also a cranky loner. We visited him in 1991, and while he had interesting things to say about the tower, he was also an unapologetic racist. Here's what we noted at the time (and now recall why we were in no big hurry to tell his story):
Dan Van Meter lives quietly in a tree- and scrap-metal lined retreat below eight lanes of LA freeway overpass. Out back is Dan's Tower Of Pallets -- 2,000 rejects from the Schlitz Brewing Company that Dan stacked in 1951. The pallets are arranged to form a 22-ft. high conical tower. Inside, steps ascend to the top opening.
A plum line hangs from the top of the structure to the center of its dark interior.
"I did it when they were having A-Bomb Tests in Nevada," says Van Meter, 79. "I'd bring a radio in, and sure enough, 4-5 minutes after the explosion, it'd start rocking back and forth."
Jailed by Chief Justice-To-Be Earl Warren during World War II as a "dirty America Firster" subversive, Dan believes that Warren is responsible for the sad state of Constitutional jurisprudence. "George Washington worked for my family as a surveyor. Earl Warren's father was a mulatto."
"Someone once referred to me as a 'drifter.' I said, 'Boy, I don't drift very fast, do I?'"
Dan's current project is to "get rid of that communist in the White House." He's also building a replica one-room schoolhouse, "to show the people what we've lost in this country."
The tower was messed up a little during an earthquake, but Dan quickly put it back in shape. Apparently it alone is impervious to the turmoil that is otherwise destroying America.
"When blacks marry women, they tell them outright: 'You leave me and I will kill you.' That's why you find those prostitutes dead along the road here in California. They try to escape and they kill 'em!"
"There's a war on in America against Christianity. The Flying Nun. The 'religious right.' It's all ridicule. All the people who formed America were Christian. Now we're becoming a mongrelized nation."
"The UN is communist. That's where the communists went. They're in control of the schools in California. They don't teach children how to spell; they say that interferes with their ability to 'think for themselves'."
Dan's safe, filled with $50,000 in rare gold coins, was stolen. "Neighbors told me they were all blacks or latinos or something of that nature."
"I wish we could get the police, when they catch these people, to get rid of them right on the spot. We shouldn't spend our money to keep criminals alive."
Now it's 2005. The Tower of Pallets sags, and Van Meter's unique voice no longer carries on the hot breeze below the freeway.
City planners will decide what to do with the Tower in the Spring.
Jan. 2009: Dan's heirs sold the property for $4.5 million, and the Tower was bulldozed in 2006. The apartment building that's currently being built on the site will reportedly have a memorial display about Dan's Tower in its lobby.