Iron Mike

“Spirit of the CCC” Statue

original created by

John Palo-Konga – 1935

Bronze Reproduction Sculpted by:

Jim Brothers – 1993

Donated by:

National Association of

Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni – 1993


The original “Spirit of the CCC” as installed in Griffith Park in 1935. The stone statue vanished, and the mystery has never been solved.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, an early response to the challenge of the Great Depression.  The program put more than 3 million young men and 225,000 World War I veterans to work in parks and forests all over the nation, planting trees, building parks and infrastructure, and completing many conservation projects.  Griffith Park benefitted from CCC workers who completed projects such as erosion control and road construction, and they enhanced features in the exquisite Ferndell grotto. There were two CCC camps in Griffith Park, both near the current site of Travel Town: a WWI veterans camp from May 1934 to May 1936, and Camp Riverside from November 1938 to May 1941.

On October 1, 1935, a statue honoring all CCC workers was unveiled at the Griffith Park Veterans Camp by President Roosevelt during a whirlwind visit to Los Angeles. Called “Iron Mike,” “The CCC Worker,” and formally, “Spirit of the CCC,” the original statue sculpted by John Palo-Kangas, was made of concrete, probably cast from a mold.  It disappeared after the camp was dismantled, either removed or destroyed by massive flooding in the area in March 1938.  This bronze reproduction of the original statue was funded by alumni of the CCC to honor all who served in the program from 1933-1943.

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More Interesting Information:

John Palo-Kangas (1904-1958) created the original “Spirit of the CCC” under another Depression-era program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Federal Artists Program (FAP).  He used a 38-year-old WWI veteran, Robert J. Pauley, as his model.  Palo-Kangas had a studio near downtown Los Angeles and created statues in several prominent locations around Southern California, many of which are still standing today.

Sculpter John Palo-Kangas sits atop scaffolding as he works on his statue of Father Junipero Serra in front of the old courthouse building in Ventura, California. Photo from 1937 courtesy of his daughter, Shirley Weeks.