The Permanent Home for Temporary Mosaics: Home Savings’s Last Headquarters in Irwindale

"Millard Sheets Designs," temporary mosaic panel, one of three, c. 1974, now in Irwindale

“Millard Sheets Designs,” temporary mosaic panel, one of three, c. 1974, now in Irwindale

For decades after its acquisition by Howard Ahmanson in 1947,Home Savings and Loan had its headquarters along Wilshire Boulevard — first in Beverly Hills, and then in Los Angeles, and finally, in 1985, to a campus in Irwindale. When Home Savings was purchased in 1998, the headquarters was transferred to Washington Mutual.

Now they are two of the three buildings in the renamed San Gabriel Valley Corporate Campus, its office suites are leased by CBRE, the large commercial real-estate services firm (which also manages former Home Savings properties in Coronado, Santa Monica, and Montebello, among other locations, sold by Home Savings to Met Life in the 1980s).

Some wonderful art–mosaics, paintings, fountains, and sculptures–were commissioned for the campus from Joyce Kozloff, Richard Haas, Astrid Preston, and others. (A nice post and illustrations of Kozloff’s work from friend-of-the-blog Vickey is here.) All of it seems to be still on site except the Preston works from the cafeteria walls, which JP Morgan Chase took after they acquired Washington Mutual, and no one quite seems to no where they went. (Leads, as always, welcomed.)

"Millard Sheets Designs," temporary mosaic panel, two of three shown, c. 1974, now in Irwindale

“Millard Sheets Designs,” temporary mosaic panel, two of three shown, c. 1974, now in Irwindale

But the most remarkable find on campus for me were these three mosaic panels, installed on a brick wall to the right of the second building’s entrance. Showing a woman and children on horseback, a woman lifting a child into a tree, and a Dalmatian frolicking alongside, these joyous mosaic panels highlight the family themes so common in Sue Hertel’s work for the Millard Sheets Studio, as well as the angular trees, touches of gold, and intricate patternwork that Sheets himself was fond of.

Unlike any other Home Savings work I have seen, the panels are signed MSD — for Millard Sheets Designs, perhaps marking another moment in the evolving attributions in the Studio’s mosaics, from just Millard’s signature to a period of no signatures and then works completely designed, fabricated, and signed by Sue Hertel and Denis O’Connor. (In this case, Brian Worley has a distinct memory of doing that Dalmatian.)

These are intimate family scenes, but not linked to any specific place. To me, they suggest Sheets Studio designs elsewhere: the woman holding the child echoes Burbank and Pomona, while the children on horseback in a forest echo Burbank and Highland Park. A number of Sue Hertel’s designs show frolicking animals; for dogs, the Studio City stained glass and the mosaic in Anaheim come to mind.

These hints, once matched with Brian’s recollections, helped me realize what they are: the temporary mosaic panels, made in frames and intended to be installed in temporary Home Savings branches throughout the Southland, while their permanent buildings were built. (My research suggests they were built for a temporary location in downtown Los Angeles, possibly at 7th and Figueroa, 1974, and may have been displayed at later temporary branches in Westminster, Riverside, and Santa Cruz.)

I can’t say this is the most prominent file home for these mosaic panels, but they do seem appreciated by CBRE, on a campus that once thronged with Home Savings employees.

Thanks to Jason Bonomo of CBRE for giving me a tour of the Home Savings artwork on the property, and to Brian Worley for helping to identify the panels.

 

2 thoughts on “The Permanent Home for Temporary Mosaics: Home Savings’s Last Headquarters in Irwindale

  1. The CBRE company is also holding the contract to liquidate US Post office buildings. The list includes historic construction and art considered by many to be cultural treasures. “In charge of selling the facilities for the Postal Service is CB Richard Ellis Group, one of the world’s largest real estate companies, chaired by San Francisco financier Dick Blum. CBRE, which has worked with the post office since 1997, was awarded the exclusive contract to market Postal Service facilities in 2011. Blum is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a relationship some critics of the post office have duly noted.
    “Historically, USPS has worked with multiple real estate service providers. The new contract enables USPS to consolidate these activities with one service provider,” CBRE said in a statement at the time.
    On its website, CBRE shows 57 post offices nationwide listed for sale or in the process of being sold. They include Sausalito’s main post office, priced at $5.2 million, two in Fresno for a combined $2.9 million, and one in Los Angeles for $8.3 million. The main post office in Modesto, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sold for $1.02 million in 2011 to a developer who plans to convert it to lofts, The Chronicle reported in August.

    The One might wonder if this is part of the company’s strategy to attain mass quantities of art for future profit?
    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/business/bottomline/article/Grim-outlook-for-post-office-buildings-4264630.php#ixzz2KukG8Stn
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/01/1165912/-Selling-off-the-Post-Office-Berkeley-calls-out-Richard-Blum#Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:27 AM PST

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