Missing Home Savings Art: Mysteries in Santa Monica and Glendale

Something missing? Blank spot in the travertine facade, Glendale
Something missing? Blank spot in the travertine facade, Glendale

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Lillian Sizemore, an accomplished mosaic artist who teaches about contemporary and classical mosaic techniques and who knew Denis O’Connor, the mosaic master of the Home Savings bank art, in his last years. (Last week I took a week off for spring break — sorry!)

We discussed the intersections of our research while browsing the Denis O’Connor Collection at the Huntington Library — and Lillian alerted me to a letter she saw, at once heartbreaking and mysterious.

In 2001, Denis O’Connor received a letter:

Dear Denis:

We have removed the two glass mosaic murals from the old Home Savings Bank building located at 331 Santa Monica Boulevard…

…please note that you can have the murals if you are willing to pick them up and pay us for the costs incurred for their removal….If we do not hear back from you within thirty (30) days, we will assume that you do not want the murals.

Sue Hertel and Denis O'Connor, pelicans and dolphins, Santa Monica, 1988
Leland Means and Denis O'Connor, pelicans and dolphins, Santa Monica, 1988 (demolished; a blurry image, sorry)

As Lillian said, what a heartbreaking thing to receive. Did Denis follow up? What was the cost — a few hundred, a few thousand, or tens of thousands of dollars? The mosaic, from 1988, and showing pelicans and dolphins, was not massive, but the effort to remove it from a demolition site intact would have entailed most of a day.

In any case, there is no record of Denis’s response — and no record of what happened to the mosaics. The company that oversaw the demolition, The Tides Building LLC, seems to have been a part of The Braemar Group; all the phone numbers listed in the letter, or on the Internet, are disconnected. But even if the company went bankrupt, was sold, or otherwise disappeared, the assets involved likely did not–neither the $18.7 million for the building they constructed in the bank’s place, nor mosaics.

Sam Watters, in his March 2010 Los Angeles Times “Lost LA” column reflecting on the themes of the Home Savings artwork discussed every week on this blog, mentioned the site as “reduced to rubble,” but we can assume that was hyperbole rather than a confirmed kill, until we hear otherwise.

Have you seen them? Are they in your backyard? Did you write this letter, or were you involved in the Home Savings’s building’s demolition? Historians, and some interested museums and collectors, would love to know!

So that’s the Santa Monica mystery for today. As for the Glendale mystery above: the records I have searched suggest no artwork was designed for that site, so perhaps the construction crews simply cut a hole for artwork that was never to be there. for the Home Savings shield that was once there.

But the records are also incomplete–do you remember artwork in that spot, facing the parking lot off Brand in Glendale? If so, let me know!

7 thoughts on “Missing Home Savings Art: Mysteries in Santa Monica and Glendale

  1. I have Original Works of Art by Millard Sheets, Edgar Ewing, Paula Crane & more that once hung in the Home Savings & Loan in San Francisco, CA, 2750 Van Ness Ave, Lombard Financial Center. I would like to sell them all. Please help!

  2. Just ran across this article. I remember this event very clearly and must make a slight correction to your piece. This is not a Sue Hertel design. It is mine. I worked with Denis, designing these two murals, creating the original paintings, as well as a Savings of America mural in Missouri. I also received the letters asking me if I wanted the murals. I believe I still have at least one of the paintings. If there is a better photograph of the murals, there is an LM in one corner. At one point I was told that the murals were being removed, but I have no reason to believe that it is true.

    I have the original gouache painting from the first of the two murals as well as a color copy of the Missouri mural. Can you tell me who is in charge of Denis’ work at the Huntington and I will take add these pieces to the collection.

    Thank you,

    Leland Means

    1. Dear Leland,

      Thanks so much for writing in! You have been on my to-contact list. I have recently found your name attached to this work at Santa Monica, and I will contact you about which of the Missouri sites are your work. It is now corrected above.

      I think the Santa Monica mosaic was removed, and that the Missouri ones are in place; I will be in touch about discussing this more, and the Huntington Library collection. The Huntington has three versions of the Santa Monica gouache signed by you, and it would be great to have more!

      1. I am horrified to hear about “Dolphins and Pelicans” destruction. I assumed that the new owners pulled the murals off in order to put it into a private collection.
        It was beautiful. Always wanted to replicate it.
        That I am one of the few locals who remember it, saddens me terribly.
        Is there any way to get a copy of one of the studies????

        Los Angeles Times
        Bank failures strike a blow to city’s art
        Some of the works commissioned for Home Savings buildings have been destroyed or painted over.
        March 06, 2010|By Sam Watters

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