I have been on the Southern California freeways a lot recently–driving down to San Diego, out to Claremont, around and around the LA Basin, discussing my first book and finding new leads for Home Savings research. And though I have written before about the efforts to catalog what makes the Home Savings and Loan buildings distinctive, I have found another pattern worth noting: the Home Savings and Loan office tower.
The first Home Savings tower seems a fluke: it was built in 1962 as part of the downtown Pomona Mall redevelopment, a project that was a love note from Millard Sheets to his hometown, and something Howard Ahmanson and Home Savings seem to have joined as a favor to Sheets. The mall was toasted nationally as the future of urban renewal, and then faced its own decline — and now Chase has threatened the future of the tower as well. (Come tour the Pomona sites, and learn more from docents, a panel of Studio participants, and knowledgeable folks like me, at the L.A. Conservancy tour March 18th).
The tower was a one-off — Home Savings was not then in the business of building large office towers, nor of owning and managing commercial real-estate. And, because it may be the only Home Savings tower to have Sheets Studio art, I basically ignored the other towers for a while.
But I have been recently thinking about how the Home Savings brand was maintained by architecture even as the Sheets Studio branches changed (a topic for a future post), and I began to think more about the Glendale tower, and the Covina tower, and the one along the 405 in… Carson? Signal Hill? Clearly, Home Savings and Loan did become interested in tall office towers, likely for their commercial real estate space and their large branch spaces, after the S&L banking laws changed.
And of course it was nice that the towers could be their own Home Savings icons. These towers reflect the work of Frank Homolka for Home Savings, and their uniformity, with the space for the proud Home Savings name at the top and the shield along the shaft, created their own iconic recognition. (Here you can see Chase beginning to mimic this, with their logo on the side.)
Home Savings towers are in sight of the freeway, along the main streets of these suburbs, and hence often they are the only office tower of their kind in, say, Covina. This reflects a continuation of the Home Savings siting policies of the decorated branches. But the choice not to include Sheets Studio art, combined with the ubiquity of this generic, pared-down modernist architecture, suggests these towers no longer stand out from their postwar peers. But they do serve as a part of the story of art, architecture, and the urban context of Home Savings and Loan — if a subtle one.
So Lakewood is maybe a distinctive or experiment tower. There is an exterior mosaic,but it is the planter base (not on the building)for the Svenson sculpture and the interior mosaic….well it was its own thing. And neither mosaic had anything to do with Lakewood or the history of the area. Maybe Millard was getting tired of the same old formula.
Thanks, Brian; I have to get to Lakewood and look around. There are clearly changes afoot in these towers — but unclear if impetus is coming from Millard or (more likely, I think) the Home Savings executives and/or the architect Frank Homolka.
Great news Adam hot off the press. I just hung up from a call to my main Chase bank contact who handles their buildings and Chase has now committed to saving the tower building in Pomona. The grillworks that are failing will be replaced and the mosaics on the exterior will be checked for missing pieces and fixed. I appreciate both those who have applied pressure to Case, and to Chase for responding in a positive manner. They are committed to saving their artworks and to keeping them in good repair. Best and thanks, Tony
Tony — That will be great news! I look forward to hearing more about this new commitment. I am happy to meet with Chase and tell them more about all of these sites whenever they are interested.
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Eventually they gave up on the Pomona Mall and made it a street again. But the Sheets travertine is still there. What’s fun is now that area is the live music hipster capital of the Inland; where all the people priced out of Claremont go.