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Two large sections of the Berlin Wall – plain concrete on one side, colorful and expressive graffiti on the other – will be on public display in Mountain View by next summer, city officials say.
A German-born businessman, Frank Golzen, bought the two pieces as relics six months after the wall came down in 1989. Golzen died four years ago and last month his family donated the 12-foot-tall, three-and-a-half-ton sections to the city, which will choose a site to display them. Pioneer Park on Church Street is a leading contender.
The City Council voted unanimously to accept the gift from the Golzen family, which had been exploring other options. “We actually shopped it a little bit,” said Robert Golzen, Frank’s son. “My sister Sandy had called the Reagan Library in Southern California because they already have pieces of the Berlin Wall, and they were interested.”
Golzen said his family also considered donating the sections to the city of San Francisco or Stanford University, but opted for Mountain View in recognition of Frank’s deep business and personal history with the community.
The wall pieces have been kept at the Bayside Business Plaza on Marine Way, where Golzen and his partners recently sold the property to Google. Frank Golzen, who died at 92, founded a trucking company in the 1940s and based it in Mountain View. In 1966, he established company headquarters at Bayside Business Plaza.
Parts of the Berlin Wall are observable at least 40 sites in the United States, with seven in California. City Council member Jac Siegel said the pieces historically relate to Mountain View because the city played a large role in Silicon Valley’s wartime contributions. The Cold War motivated nearby military entrepreneurship in the 1950s and ’60s, when the Moffett Federal Airfield was a testing ground for the latest aerospace technologies.
“Mountain View, believe it or not, was the seat of the fall of the Berlin Wall in one way or another with all of the defense work and aerospace work that went on here,” Siegel said. “So really, I hear art, but I think of history. You talk about what went on here for 20 or 30 years in this valley starting in the 50s, I mean this is it. This is what we work for.”
When it sold the Bayside Business Plaza property, the Golzen family agreed to move the wall sections by next summer. Mountain View’s Visual Arts Committee will make recommendations to the City Council on the site location and design by year-end.
In making a site recommendation, the committee plans to look at three things: accessibility, security, and aesthetics. Pioneer Park is the leading candidate based on preliminary judgments. Alternatives sites are the Downtown Transit Center, 748 West Evelyn Ave.; the Police and Fire Administration Building, 195 Franklin St.; and Charleston Park between Amphitheatre Parkway and Charleston Road.
According to Christopher Parkinson, the committee chairman, the city is pleased it has the opportunity to add rich pieces of art such as the Berlin Wall sections.
“I feel that culture and art within the city is the highest expression that a municipality can reach towards; the farther it reaches the better the community is,“ Parkinson said.
The display at Bayside Business Plaza, in addition to the heaping wall sections, has an informative reader board and a plaque paying tribute to the United States’ resolve. The positioning of the pieces showcases a drawing of Elvis Presley and the German words for “We love you” on the formerly western, democratic side of the Berlin Wall, while the eastern side remains blank.
Golzen said his family will pay for the estimated $8,000 deconstruction of the current 20-by-20 foot display, which originally cost about $21,000. The City Council is in support of paying for the new installation, estimated at $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the final site selection.
The Golzen family is confident Mountain View’s new display will be consistent with Frank’s original reason for bringing the wall sections to the city, which Robert Golzen said was to make people mindful of why something like that went up in the first place.
“I think my dad’s purpose in bringing these two pieces of the wall to California was to remind the world that because of America’s resolve, the wall did come down, and freedom was allowed to spread from western Berlin to eastern Berlin,” Golzen said. “I think we should all remember that.”