Claycord Online Museum: The Spirit Poles of Concord Avenue

June 21, 2018 19:00 pm · 46 comments

We received these images from “Clayton Valley Highlander”, who says they were part of a 1990 Concord Leisure Services mailer highlighting Concord’s Spirit Poles sculpture on Concord Avenue.

The poles were installed in the middle of Concord Avenue in 1989 for $400,000. While they were up, the National Enquirer called them “the ugliest publicly funded sculpture in America.”

The poles were demolished in 2001 after they started falling down.

To view a photo of the spirit poles as they were being demolished, click HERE.

ABOUT THE CLAYCORD ONLINE MUSEUM: The Claycord Online Museum is made up of historical photos, documents & anything else that has to do with the history of our area.

If you have any old photos or items that you’d like to place in the Claycord Online Museum, just scan or take a photo of them, and send them to the following address: It doesn’t matter what it is, even if it’s just an old photo of your house, a scan of an old advertisement or an artifact that you’d like us to see, send it in and we’ll put it online!

Click on the tag below titled “Claycord Online Museum” to view other items!

Mike June 21, 2018 at 7:42 PM

I was just in Nashville, TN and they have these. I was wondering what the heck they meant! Look like gigantic jousting spears.

Cowellian June 22, 2018 at 7:44 AM

Ha! I haven’t seen them yet, but I don’t get downtown often. Ours are called “stix”, they’re made of wood, and are supposedly reminiscent of a Seussian forest.

Original G June 21, 2018 at 7:56 PM

But they were a success, no space ships ever landed on that stretch of Concord Avenue.

Antler June 22, 2018 at 11:16 AM


Lena June 22, 2018 at 11:52 AM

If I recall correctly, didn’t the Spirit Poles arrive about the same time as DeSaulnier and his restaurant? They were certainly close enough to be visible from when entering place.

Citizen June 21, 2018 at 8:55 PM

They were messy,disorganized,sharp pointed hideous ugly angry looking pieces of garbage! Who thought that was a good idea!

Amy June 21, 2018 at 8:58 PM

A stupid decision by the Concord City Council then. Let’s hope they don’t put Concord on the map for another dumb decision.

Badge1104 June 22, 2018 at 7:18 AM

I remember those! They were vicious! the town was the laughing stock. Some also called them knitting needles. But was so crazy was when people demanded they be taken down- after they stupid expenditure of money- we were told that there could not be because contract with the artist stipulated that they stay up for 5 years.

dltravers June 21, 2018 at 9:19 PM

They reminded of of Assyrian stakes. The Assyrians use to drive long sharp stakes in the ground and throw their enemies on them. I remember the city leaders signed a “lifetime” art clause where the stakes could never be taken down.

When they broke I they had to go to court and declare them dangerous. Those were some bad leadership times in Concord.

Dorothy June 21, 2018 at 9:22 PM

Nat’l Enquirer must not have seen the so called fountain in SF, I don’t remember the name of that plaza. Those of us who lived in SF called it a pile of cement square dog turds. The Spirit Poles can only be the 2nd ugliest. At least they are gone but the so called fountain is still at that plaza, uglier than ever with age.

Away we go June 21, 2018 at 10:33 PM

Villiancourt fountain. You speak the truth!

Pleasant Hiller June 21, 2018 at 11:40 PM

Justin Herman Plaza. I worked close to it for years. Yes, the fountain is ugly. I couldn’t understand why the city allowed it there at such a prime location. I didn’t even see any water coming out of it for about 8 years.

Silva June 22, 2018 at 7:42 AM

Yeah, Justin Herman Plaza. I ate my lunch next to that “fountain” in the late 70s a couple of years. Definitely hideous back then also, and dry as desert bones.

Dr Jellyfinger June 21, 2018 at 9:23 PM

It was that movie “Red Dawn” (1984) that got us all spooked enough to support the Anti Paratrooper Spikes…. I guess it worked, we were not invaded by Soviet or Cuban Paratroopers, or Giant Pigeons!

just me June 21, 2018 at 9:44 PM

They were on Concord ave, stupidest thing I ever saw

Mo June 21, 2018 at 10:26 PM

The Spirit Poles! Does anyone remember when some joker put a bunch of colored plastic bags on the poles, so it looked kind of like giant BBQ shish kabobs?

The Troll’s Wife June 22, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Nope, but I remember when someone put stuffed white garbage bags on them, making it look like skewered marshmallows.

biggus thinkus June 22, 2018 at 1:45 PM

@wife o troll
YES! that was the comment i was waiting for! the marshmallows!

Gititogether June 21, 2018 at 10:52 PM

Hmmm, spikes in the middle of the road….designed by Vlad the Impaler?

J. June 21, 2018 at 11:26 PM

They were used to knit Andre the Giant’s sweaters.

Pleasant Hiller June 21, 2018 at 11:42 PM

I moved to this area in later 1990. I kept reading about the new Spirit Poles and all the complaints about them. About a year later, I happened to drive past them and thought, “Wow. These really are a giant eyesore! I can’t believe they paid $400K for these!”

World Class June 22, 2018 at 1:09 AM

The Spirit Poles were World Class.

Bob June 22, 2018 at 1:22 AM

Lest we forget

Concord Res June 22, 2018 at 6:27 AM

If I recall the “ Artist” had a clause in the contract which required payment if the poles were ever removed which tells you even the artist knew they were a joke. While in court the poles mysteriously started breaking at the base and were Determined to be a hazard so they could be removed.

Dr Jellyfinger June 22, 2018 at 6:53 AM

Well…. they did wobble a little bit in the wind.
There could have been some metal fatigue.

Justifiable Languor June 22, 2018 at 7:03 AM

I remember the horror when I first saw them.

D.V.Guy June 22, 2018 at 7:42 AM

I always thought they were for skewering city council members………………..

Silva June 22, 2018 at 7:50 AM

When they failed and had to be removed, they could never find the “artist” to get the required permission (according to the contract) to remove it, so they nust did. The “artist” had disappeared into the ether.

The big question now is... June 22, 2018 at 8:04 AM

Where are they now?

Kirkwood June 22, 2018 at 5:57 PM

After the poles were taken out they were stored for a few months, then sent to recycling.

Cowellian June 22, 2018 at 8:12 AM

Artist Gary Rieveschl didn’t seem to care that his Spirit Poles were a danger to Concord residents, and claimed that California law prohibited removing public art without the artist’s permission. He was eventually paid $75,000 to surrender his claim to the poles.

I’ve got more information, including links to news stories, here:

TADS3 June 22, 2018 at 8:57 AM

The fact that so many people had strong feelings about them, negative or positive, proves that they we’re good art.

JazzMan June 22, 2018 at 9:28 AM


Aspirin June 22, 2018 at 9:10 AM

When the wind blew they would vibrate and this was causing metal fatigue at the base of the poles, which presented the threat of the poles crashing down onto the street perhaps hitting cars and people, dogs and cats.

RANDOM TASK June 22, 2018 at 9:13 AM

yeah that was obviously the start of the lackluster group of people who took over and turned a once thriving city into a joke and a corrupt pit full of bums and crime and big city problems because the powers that be are only here to further their political agendas and connections …..conturd is a loathing station for politicians to start their careers …they cant use pitts/Antioch or WC PH has even shut them out ….so they prey on conturd and declare sanctuary for illegal acts and legalize crime and bums on every corner allowing massive damage to vehicles and property and raising taxes upon taxes ….roads suck …when people complain they patch ….back in the day every 5 -7 years the roads were paved things were nice …no bums very low crime …crime was illegal as well ….the storefronts were all abuzz with small business thriving and schools that were doing well and actually providing educated students …now they pass and move on with f’s …..

what wonderful thing you have done all by yourselves …you seem happy with it since you vote the same and keep it the same ….wish you would have actually stood up and told everyone you were going to turn this city into a hole so people could have gotten out before the plague arrived ….slowly tearing down everything that was good

Lena June 22, 2018 at 11:47 AM

With the seemingly heavy rodent infestations at local restaurants, plague arriving in Concord might not be all that remote a possibility. Still, the City Council is curiously quiet about current events in Concord.

JazzMan June 22, 2018 at 9:31 AM

If you want an example of “ugly”, get rid of the creepy baby fountain in downtown WC(Main & Duncan).

Silva June 25, 2018 at 7:32 AM

That is bad.

ConcordRez June 22, 2018 at 10:03 AM

I liked them

Justifiable Languor June 22, 2018 at 12:43 PM

I tried to like them cuz they were ‘Art’, right? Maybe I have read too many historical novels. They look like pikes to me. As in, a display for a severed head.

MadMom June 22, 2018 at 12:57 PM

We moved to Concord from Walnut Creek in 1989. I didn’t see them until after the Loma Prieta earthquake. I honestly thought that something had happened during the quake to make that mess!

Kirkwood June 22, 2018 at 3:22 PM

I saw a scale model of the project while it was still under consideration. The original concept featured the poles close enough together to resemble a wavy picket fence. The quoted price was out of reach so the City chose to remove a large percentage of the poles and re-space what remained. The final result was the spacing so far apart that that there was little relationship to each other and it destroyed the final image. Evidently the artist approved the change because he was on-scene during some of the construction. Why/how the poles fell is another story.

Silva June 23, 2018 at 3:18 PM

That is an interesting and bizarre angle of the story, Kirkwood. You are one of the few who have any idea of how it was intended to look.

NoMoreFreeRide June 22, 2018 at 4:07 PM

Taxpayers money wasted!

rw June 23, 2018 at 11:03 PM

It was just the beginning of a long line of bad decisions by the City of Concord.

JustMe June 24, 2018 at 12:38 PM

I remember they tried to dress them up by putting flags on them before taking them down, but they were hideous. I’m not sure what Concord was thinking, or if they saw a rendering or a small scale model beforehand. They had an opportunity to do something nice there, but it was beyond ugly. Good riddance!

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