John Wallis and Associates: Home Savings Stained Glass from Installation to Repairs

Sue Hertel and John Wallis stained glass, carousel, Montebello, 1974. This site has been recently leased by a future good steward.

Sue Hertel and John Wallis stained glass, carousel (detail), Montebello, 1974. This site has been recently leased by a future good steward.

Last week I stopped into the Sunset and Vine branch of Home Savings. The mosaics look good, and the painted mural is mostly visible behind some cubicles. (As Tony Sheets mentioned this weekend, bank tasks change, and hence these spaces have had to evolve.) But it was the condition of the stained glass that stayed with me.

Sue Hertel and John Wallis and Associates, Hollywood branch stained glass at installation, 1968

Sue Hertel and John Wallis and Associates, Hollywood branch stained glass at installation, 1968

The Hollywood branch stained glass had some cracks, holes, or other damage–covered up with blue electrical tape! I introduced myself and told both the bank manager and Chase’s regional facilities manager who to contact for repairs: John Wallis and Associates stained glass.

In the current Huntington Frontiers magazine, I write about the marvels of the mosaic studio archives, from the time under both Millard Sheets and Denis O’Connor. But a visit with Susan Wallis, the current head of the stained glass firm and John’s daughter, and Helen Wallis, his widow, opened another window (pun intended) important for my research.

The Wallises generously explained the workings of the stained glass studio, and provided a chance to see their extensive files about the research, cost, process, and repairs of the stained glass.
Millard Sheets, Sue Hertel, Helen and John Wallis and (bank official?) at a Home Savings opening

Millard Sheets, Sue Hertel, Helen and John Wallis and (bank official?) at an opening. Courtesy of John Wallis and Associates.

Building designs, mosaics, and painted murals were all done in-house at the Studio, and the archives are filled with Millard’s correspondence about furnishings, carpet, tile, and paint color, and other details. But like sculpture, stained glass was a skill outside of Millard’s direct purview. In the case of glass, it was Sue Hertel, armed with the designs approved by Millard, who came over to the Wallis-Wiley or then John Wallis studios to select the glass colors, approve the “waxed-up” temporary design, and to paint the final details onto the windows.

The discussion of repairs in the files is really fascinating, too. From the very first years, there was vandalism, settling, earthquakes, and accidents that led to cracks and holes, and (mostly in the case of the 1994 earthquake) whole panels falling out and needing to be replaced. Using the original instructions, the same materials, and the same methods, Susan Wallis has kept the windows in pristine condition, with no indication of what had been replaced.

Stained glass in former Home Savings (now New Balance), behind screen, 2012

Stained glass in former Home Savings (now New Balance), behind screen, 2012

As far as I know, none of the Home Savings stained glass windows have been removed, so going to see them is the best way to appreciate them. (Santa Monica, though, is now protected but obscured by a screen, and Beverly Hills are blocked by the new stairs.) Choose a sunny day, and go see these gems, like the Ahmanson Trust windows! (Details on where to find them in the list; contact me with needed updates.)

 

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And – just another word of thanks to all those who came out to the L.A. Conservancy’s Mod Com tour and panel of Millard Sheets’ art and architecture last Sunday. The crowds and enthusiasm were great, and I enjoyed meeting so many of my correspondents, and seeing old friends in the cause.

If you have a memory, story, or question about the work of the Millard Sheets Studio or Home Savings, please do get in touch with me!

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