Those frogs have got to go. You know which ones I'm talking about, Glendale. Situated at the entrance of the Marketplace on Brand, the trio, now sporting a faded green facade, cower behind their tree branches, indiscriminately spitting water at you when you walk by.
It's been around 14 years since they first hopped onto the scene along with the rest of the area that developers hoped would invigorate downtown Glendale. Since then, numerous establishments have come and gone (Bennigan's, anyone?) and the struggling center once touted as a “retail urban village” has been sold, bought and seen the 2-acre Americana rise rather gloriously nearby, but that amphibian eyesore, that the website of the newly established Galaxy Theatres upstairs refers to as the “fun tri-frog fountain” is still there.
But wait, there's more — the frogs even have names — Glen, Dale and Hops, fittingly chosen by a young Glendale resident back in the day.
According to the city's records, the frogs were commissioned by the Tolkin Group as part of their original development, with the proceeds from the fountain benefiting the Alternative Living for the Aging, a nonprofit agency that provides low-income seniors with affordable housing alternatives.
Though unconfirmed, they might be a nod to “Frogtown,” the moniker given to the nearby area known as Elysian Valley, where frogs from the once concrete-less L.A. River would overflow into the city during rainy season.
Despite their charitable and historical qualities, the sporadic water-spitting trio are still in desperate need of a good bath (“please clean those poor frogs, they are turning bronze!” writes one Yelp reviewer of the now defunct Mann 4 Glendale Marketplace Theaters) and permanent retirement.
The frogs unfortunately are not helping spruce up the image of the Marketplace area, with its high rate of turnover and tunnel-like, claustrophobia-inducing design. Its current saving graces lie in the hands of the Galaxy Theatres and Sin City export Vegas Seafood Buffet. The buffet looks to be an intriguing, yet slightly bizarre dining experience, promising hour-long waits and more calories in one sitting than you need in a day, and oneI'm very much looking forward to exploring soon.
Back in 1998, a Pasadena-based architect commented on how fountains and benches have drawn crowds to public spaces for centuries in European cities in an L.A. Times article about the marketplace (“Old Ideas Are New Again at Mall”). Even if it was once a popular attraction — let's face it, mostly with children and perhaps only children — the frog fountain isn't doing anything of the sort for the area today.
It's not completely the fault of our water-loving and spitting friends, and while comparing the humble complex to the Americana behemoth might be unfair — just a look across the street reveals that the crowds are going elsewhere.
Though I would wager to say that Glendale's public art needs a facelift in general, (Benjamin Franklin sitting on a bench and two bronze horses “as if in motion with wild expressions” as described by the city's website just do not cut it for me) the outdated, dowdy and sad-looking frog display has really reached the end of its croak.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun