This monument was a gift to the city from philanthropist James Lick, who left $100,000 for the creation of "statutory emblematic of the significant epochs in California history," dating back to the missions' early settlement. The monument came under fire in the '90s for its offensive portrayal of Native Americans. The figure grouping at the back shows a missionary and a settler standing over the only representation of Native peoples: a man who is on the ground looking up to his European oppressors.
The monument's center column is topped with a woman, Eureka, who represents California, holding a shield and spear and accompanied by the California bear. On the column below her there are four bronze reliefs depicting four important events in California's founding: "Crossing the Sierra," "Vaqueros Lassoing a Bull," "Trapper Trading Skins with Indians," and "California's Progress under American Rule."
Two dates appear on the column: 1848, marking the discovery of gold and 1850, the year California joined the United States. Around the bottom of the column are five portrait medallions of men in California's history: John Sutter, John Fremont, Sir Francis Drake, Father Juniper Serra, and James Lick (the monument's commissioner). Below these portraits are the names: Vallejo, Larkin, Marshall, Castro, Stockton, Sloat, Portola, and Cabrillo, the Bay Area's first successful families.
The women on either side of Eureka are allegorical figures. The woman rowing in a boar represents Commerce, and Plenty is shown seated with a cornucopia representing abundance. The other two sculptural groups each contain three figures and represent California's founding. The one in front of Eureka is titled "In '49" and shows three gold miners. The group behind her is titled "Early Days" and features a missionary, a Native American, and a Vaquero.
Originally this monument stood in Marshall Square in front of the old City Hall that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. When the city was rebuilt, Grove and Hyde Streets were extended to meet Market Street and the Pioneer Monument stood at that intersection until it was moved to its present location in 1993.
Between the Asian Art Museum and the Public Library, in the center of Fulton Street between Larkin and Hyde Streets in San Francisco