The Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza is located across the street from the state capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona. Here, pieces of Arizona’s history are commemorated through monuments and memorials. Monuments and memorials reflect how people have conceived their collective identity, especially when those choices are made in public spaces. The markers in the Wesley Bolin Plaza reflect the changing identity of Arizonans, both locally and in connection to national identity. Over time, they have become crucial to shaping the landscape and the historical memory of the city, state, or country. Of note, the memorials on the Arizona State Capitol grounds are unique in how they are placed all together in a park directly across the street. In 1976, the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza emerged through a conversation with broader currents in the region’s and nation’s history. Over time, the plaza has become a sacred space because so many of its memorials include relics and artifacts, or list the names of those who have lost their lives in their service to Arizona. In these ways the plaza became a landscape of memory where visitors come to remember and honor those people and parts of Arizona history. The memorial plaza also influences Arizonans’ knowledge of history. It engenders a local as well as a national loyalty and identity in its citizens and visitors. By researching the history of several of the prominent monuments and memorials in the plaza, I discovered a rich history and an intriguing story behind each one that is built. Most monuments and memorials are commemorating complex events or people in history, yet have only short inscriptions on them. As a result, much of the historical narrative, complexities, and symbolism can be lost. My purpose is to tell the story of the plaza, these memorials, and their history; highlighting their significance to Arizonans and explaining how the monuments and memorials fit into the larger story of historical commemoration.
- A History of the Monuments & Memorials in the Wesley Bolin Plaza at the Arizona State Capitol