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Santa Monica Conservancy Appeals Landmarks Commission Denial of Home Savings Building

Home Savings is one of 40 branch bank collaborations of financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets.

 

March 29, 2017

Completed in 1970, Santa Monica's Home Savings is one of a group of approximately 40 branch banks resulting from the unique collaboration of financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets.

The Santa Monica Conservancy has filed an appeal of the Landmarks Commission's technical denial of an application to designate the former Home Savings building at 26th and Wilshire Blvd and the parcel on which it is located. The appeal hearing is scheduled for the City Council meeting next Tuesday, March 28th. Legal challenges by the property owner over the past four years have delayed resolution of whether this building merits designation as a Santa Monica Landmark, said the Santa Monica Conservancy in a press release.

"The Santa Monica Conservancy strongly endorses designation of this iconic building as a landmark, and has provided testimony to that effect each time the matter has been heard, beginning in 2013 or earlier. The evidence presented at the hearings in the two consultants' reports prepared for the city, as well as testimonials from historic preservation experts, provide compelling support for designation of this iconic building.

"The staff report strongly supports our position," says the Conservancy. "It's important to state that the entire building, including all the artworks, are one integral whole that is worthy of landmark protection, and not just the mosaic or any individual piece of the whole. The architectural and decorative arts were designed together in a holistic manner. It is also good for our Council to hear that you value our landmarks, and that Home Savings is a worthy part of our architectural heritage," says the group.

Completed in 1970, Santa Monica's Home Savings is one of a group of approximately 40 branch banks resulting from the unique collaboration of financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets.

Sheets was an eminent artist, based in Claremont, acclaimed for his water colors as well as for his leadership in arts education, promoting art programs in the region. He chaired the Scripps College Art Department (1932-55), the Otis Art Institute (1953-1960), directed the art program at the L.A. County Fair (1931-1957), helped hire artists for the Federal Art Project, and was mentor to many renowned artists.

Ahmanson commissioned Millard Sheets, beginning in the 1950s, to create a visual identity for Home Savings that would convey an image of security and financial stability, and that would incorporate decorative artworks with imagery relating to the local community in which each building was sited. The monumental geometric masses, clad in travertine marble with gold trim, incorporating mosaics and sculpture and stained glass, became the signature style of the Home Savings branches. Sheets was given complete artistic freedom in designing these buildings with his collaborators in the Sheets Design Studio.

Detail on the mural

Our Santa Monica branch was the 25th among the 40 branch banks designed by Sheets. The building is sited on a diagonal at the corner of 26th and Wilshire Boulevard, incorporating an open entry plaza with a bronze sculpture of a family at play as the centerpiece. Santa Monica as a beach city is the theme of the artworks – the colorful mosaic on the façade, the sculpture of a child riding on a dolphin at the east entrance, and the stained glass inside (which is currently covered). The family groupings in the art convey the connection between the bank's services and family values. Home Savings indeed provided loans for residential construction and mortgages that fueled the post-war housing boom.

For more information, please see the staff report and the letters from Adam Arenson, noted expert on Millard Sheets' work, and architectural historians Alan Hess and Margarita Jerebek.

 

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