Night and Day at Ahmanson’s “Other” Wilshire Bank

Susan Lautmann Hertel, "Day" and "Night" stained glass, Ahmanson Bank and Trust, 1959
Susan Lautmann Hertel, "Day" and "Night" stained glass, fabricated by Wallis-Wiley Studio, Ahmanson Bank and Trust, 1959

The same day I visited the Wilshire Blvd. Scottish Rite Temple and the first Home Savings location at 9245 Wilshire, I made it down the block to the Ahmanson Bank and Trust location (now First Bank) at 9145 Wilshire. There is remarkable exterior art–mosaics and sculpture, soon to be restored–which I will describe another time, but this week I finally made it back with permissions to take photographs of these large stained glass windows.

The bank manager, Jeremy Sarkissian, is enthusiastic about this history of this bank, and he provided images of what once was — fountains, sculptures, and more. But the bank — with a wide opening entrance space, an unusual round elevator, and mosaic elements around the vault–still shows many signs of its Sheets Studio heritage, even before renovations.

These wonderful large stained-glass windows provide quite a contrast to the history of banking one block west. Filled with animals, gathered around a tree reaching up either to the sun or the moon, these windows show a vibrancy that hints at the choices that Sue Hertel made to enliven the projects with bright colors, a greater variety of animals, and a sensibility of animal arrangements and poses that suggest family intimacies, rather than static poses.

American Artist magazine, October 1960This project was documented while under construction by American Artist, showing most of the artists at work. And the signature–S. Lautmann Hertel–indicates a moment of transition in Sue Lautmann Hertel’s life, when, newly married, she was signing these works with both last names, before switching to Sue Hertel for the rest of her life.

In the past few weeks, I have had the chance to visit many new branches and museums; the results should be appearing in the months ahead. But for next week, I plan to offer a new definitive list of Sheets Studio projects in public buildings; check back for a New Year’s treat!

S. Lautmann Hertel signature, 1959
S. Lautmann Hertel signature, 1959

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