Putting (Home) Savings of America on the Map

Savings of America maps, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

Savings of America maps, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

Happy 2013, everyone!

On Monday, I had the opportunity to interview Larry Upham, who worked for nearly three decades on the construction of new Home Savings branches. (He even got his start, after Korean War service, in rock work at Millard Sheets’s Claremont studio via Arlen Eddington – and later did the same at Barking Rocks, in Gualala.) Upham’s career at Home Savings spanned the expansion throughout the LA Basin, on to San Diego and San Francisco, and then to other states, where Upham oversaw the construction of branches in Missouri and Illinois.

Savings of America New York locations on road map, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

Savings of America New York locations on road map, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

He had an album of great photographs of these more farflung branches, where artwork was designed and fabricated under Denis O’Connor and Sue Hertel after Millard Sheets had retired from the Home Savings artworks. More of these to come — but today I will highlight something I had not seen: Home Savings road maps.

As I mentioned in posts about Home Savings/Savings of America in New York, the bank had to introduce its traditions to a new audience across the nation, often doing so through its ongoing commitment to public artwork about a community and its history.

Savings of America Illinois map, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

Savings of America Illinois map, 1990s. Courtesy of Larry Upham

But these maps demonstrate another element of that connection: literally putting Home Savings locations on a local map, and integrating the bank’s generosity (in this case with directions) with its local presence — and its prominence on key street corners, for an ever-expanding automobile culture. As one (at right) declared, “Wherever you may live or visit in Illinois, you’ll not be far from Savings of America,” and the map “is best carried in your car for ready reference.”

The Auto Club of Southern California maintains great archives, demonstrating more than a century of reorienting Americans to the view from the driver’s seat. And a raft of great books describe the growth of roadside architecture.

My scholarship on the art, architecture, and urban context of the Home Savings buildings will tell part of that story, of roadside postwar America — and these maps are just another reminder that Home Savings’s influences on the cultural, economic, and urban landscape were part of an intentional strategy.

Here’s to another year of great contacts, interviews, new sources, and more writing — and, as always, I welcome your suggestions of people to speak with and sources to see.

5 thoughts on “Putting (Home) Savings of America on the Map

    1. Savings of America took over former Bowery Bank branches, Upham told me, but all discussions I have seen were about Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island branches. I assume this is somewhat about their connections to automobiles and parking lots.

    1. Thanks for your perspective. Do note that these Home Savings institutions are not those Ahmanson had, however; just the same name.

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