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:
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.
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!