Construction begins on Cannon Plaza following Taylor Pool closure

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Construction site for Cannon Plaza at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 24, 2021. Theodore Tang/The Occidental

In September 2021, Occidental College began demolishing the old Taylor Pool to make way for a new multi-million dollar design, Cannon Plaza, according to Amos Himmelstein, Occidental’s chief operating officer for finance, planning and operations. Cannon Plaza will occupy the courtyard that once housed Taylor Pool and will function as a multipurpose area for students and faculty.

Himmelstein said the college is aiming to complete Cannon Plaza before commencement in May 2022. According to Himmelstein, the process of replacing Taylor Pool has been underway for three years and will cost between three and four million dollars in total.

Himmelstein said the college’s architects will not change much about the physical makeup of the space and are keeping the plans fairly simple, electing instead to restore Taylor Pool’s original facade, designed in 1930 by renowned Southern California architect and Rose Bowl designer Myron Hunt.

Cleared pathway to Taylor Pool at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 24, 2021. Theodore Tang/The Occidental

“It’s part of the design to make it as multipurpose as possible so it’s not restrictive in terms of what it can be used for,” Himmelstein said.

In one design, there were plans to include a large staircase to the field, while another had a kitchen. Ultimately both of those aspects didn’t make the final cut, Himmelstein said.

However, according to Himmelstein, the plaza will feature a retractable shade awning that can be closed to protect people from the sun or opened to create a spacious outdoor environment.

Construction site for Cannon Plaza at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 24, 2021. Theodore Tang/The Occidental

Cannon Plaza is named after Anne Cannon ‘74, a trustee at the college and the lead donor on the project. This multi-million dollar gift, combined with regular donations throughout the years, makes Cannon the largest living donor in Occidental history.

Cannon majored in anthropology at Occidental, but transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where she attended the Wharton School. Cannon returned to Occidental in 2006 to finish her degree.

“I loved being on campus with the students, the young students who were essentially my son’s age, because when I was trying to graduate in 2006, that happened to be my son’s senior year at Bucknell,” Cannon said. “So these kids were really just like my son’s friends. It was really fun.”

In her professional career, Cannon worked as a financial analyst and financial advisor. Cannon said she invested for the long term and was naturally frugal, which helped her generate a large nest egg.

“The way I look at it is, ‘How can I make the biggest impact with my blessings?’” Cannon said.

Cannon said she decided that — rather than spread her wealth around many different causes and have her impact be diluted — she wanted to focus her efforts on one important area: education.

“This is where I can make the biggest impact on a number of people’s lives. I truly believe that getting an Occidental College education is transformative for whoever is lucky enough to go to the college,” Cannon said.

During her time at Occidental, Cannon said she always enjoyed spending time at Taylor Pool.

“It was a beautiful space. I loved going there on Sundays to swim when I was a student,” Cannon said.

Despite her fondness of Taylor Pool, Cannon said potential replacement ideas for the space have been on her mind for years. According to Cannon, Taylor Pool had mechanical issues and needed renovations during her years at Occidental as well.

Construction site for Cannon Plaza at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 24, 2021. Theodore Tang/The Occidental

Cannon said that once construction on the new De Mandel Aquatics Center began, she knew Taylor Pool might be closed given how difficult it would be for the college to maintain two aquatics facilities.

Cannon said she was not personally involved in the architectural design process of Cannon Plaza.

“I just knew, whatever was going to happen with the space, that it would have a new purpose but still be a beautiful part of campus,” Cannon said.

Cindy Dong (senior), a member of the varsity swim team, said she supports the decision to turn Taylor Pool into Cannon Plaza and remake the area into a common space for students and faculty.

“It will become a new space for athletes to sit and relax in between practices and training,” Dong said.

According to Dong, it is important to bring other students on campus into the athletics facilities and she thinks that the Cannon Plaza will help bring the athlete and non-athlete populations together.

Dong said that when the temperature outside is nice, she will definitely use the space.

Cannon said she wants students to know that deep down, her donation comes from a belief in Occidental’s core values.

“I’m Oxy’s biggest fan. I even have the license plate to back it up; my license plate is ‘OXYFAN,'” Cannon said. “My heart is really supportive of what Occidental does and what its mission is.”