Van Nuys Savings and Loan.


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LA Times 1 3 54
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LA Times 1 3 55

In 1954, architect Culver Heaton’s design for the Van Nuys Savings and Loan, with interior murals by artist Millard Sheets, rose at 6569 N. Van Nuys Bl.

Along with other financial institutions such as Jefferson Savings, Lincoln Savings, Great Western Bank and Bank of America, they served the local community of hard-working people who opened accounts that paid 3% or 4 1/2% interest and where polite tellers, dressed in pearls and high heels, addressed customers by their last (never their first) name.

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Photographer Maynard Parker shot these images of the bank exterior and interiors. They bespeak a dignified and progressive institution whose architecture was as up-to-date as its vision of a prosperous, safe Van Nuys. A sign on the outside of the building reads “The Home of Security” leaving no doubt to depositors about the solidity of the S&L.

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Mr. Sheets was a prodigious artist whose work can be seen all over Southern California, most notably on the exteriors of many of those white, marble clad, Home Savings of America buildings that resemble mausoleums.

Architect Culver Heaton designed many Mid 20th Century churches in Southern California in a style of expressionistic eccentricity long departed from our stripped-down imagination. His Chapel of the Jesus Ethic in Glendale (1965) is almost campy in form with its prayerful red roof, rising like hands, above a turquoise reflecting pool and a statue of Jesus on water fashioned by Herb Goldman.

Photo by Michael Locke
Photo by Michael Locke

In the 1980s, there was a national scandal and shakeout in the savings and loan industry and many closed down. The de-industrialization of Van Nuys, and its decline as a manufacturing and commercial center, coincided with a tremendous increase in immigration from Central America.

Today, a Guatemalan market, La Tapachulteca, occupies the old bank property.

2014/ Image by Andy Hurvitz
2014/ Image by Andy Hurvitz

But last year, in a hopeful sign of better times, Boaz Miodovsky of Ketter Construction, who is the new owner, plans on demolishing the old bank which has now been degraded from its original condition. His company will design and erect a multi-story apartment house with ground floor retail. The front, on VNB, will be five stories tall and taper down to three stories in back.These illustrations, which he sent to me, are preliminary and will be further refined to include landscaping and additional detail.

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Nostalgist and Van Nuys Neighborhood Council member John Hendry, who grew up and still lives in Van Nuys, alerted me to the impending demolition and asked me to research the origins of the historic structure. Quirino De La Cuesta, another VNNC member, stepped in and purchased these images from the Huntington Library.

And Mr. Miodovsky, in a nod to the old murals, will have new artwork painted within the new structure. It will be created by local artists and reflect the continuing development of Van Nuys which hit its bottom and is now climbing out parcel by parcel.

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Van Nuys Savings and Loan.

  1. PS – you have the Maynard Parker images up backwards, so the Sheets murals are reversed in form and chronology; just an FYI.

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  2. I am glad to have found this post! I have been researching Millard Sheets’s commercial commissions, and I had been to the building, but I had never seen a picture of the murals installed. Do you know what year they were completed? I have seen 1957 and 1960 — do you think the commission began in 1954, and was finished in 1957, or that they weren’t finished until 1960? Key years in the development of Sheets’s style, and his subject matter.

    I have posted a color version of the murals from the brochure in the Facebook Millard Sheets Fan Club, along with a link to this post. See that here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/94655798071/permalink/10154410796573072/

    For more on my Millard Sheets research, see http://adamarenson.com/homesavingsbankart/

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  3. You recently did a post on an accessory dwelling unit under construction in a suburban back yard that infringed the neighbors back garden pool and privacy. That was a two story building that added one more dwelling unit to the property.

    This proposed apartment complex with ground floor retail is a much larger taller building with many more units. Will you sympathize with the neighbors in the nearby two story townhouse condos if they complain about the new building in the same way? I’m curious about how you personally interpret the context and gradations. Where do you draw the line between infill development that’s appropriate and beneficial vs. heavy handed and detrimental to the community?

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    1. The two situations are completely different Johnny.

      In the matter where, without community review, an LLC came in and purchased a single-family property, and then demolished foliage and erected a two-story dwelling in the backyard, and hid behind the anonynmity of the LLC designation, refusing to meet with neighbors. He was basically abusing a law meant to allow homeowners to build, for family uses, or perhaps rental income, to erect another dwelling on their property. He intends to rent both the original house and the new one and he will not live in either structure.

      In the area where the single family property has been “sub-divided” (without that official designation) the neighborhood has been under assault by a variety of abusive owners. Some use their land to store dozens of towed vehicles. Others are running unlicensed nurseries and construction companies in back. And then there is the rampant conversion of single family houses to “sober living” uses, which sounds humane, but is basically a racket to make money off insurance companies who pay for the sobering up of persons for tens of thousands of dollars each. So Van Nuys is not sentimental about single family housing. Just sick of abusive powers who come in and do what they want by twisting the law to make big bucks without regard to neighbors.

      The apartment project proposed on Van Nuys Boulevard is open to public review and its developer has worked closely with the VNNC to address concerns about everything from traffic to architecture. It is sad that a once beautiful modern bank must be sacrificed to make way for the 3-5 story building, but the benefits to the neighborhood outweigh the negatives. The developer also is seeking a grocery store on the ground floor, is employing local muralists to paint on the structure, and is considering the entire context of the area to make sure his addition is respectful and an asset to the redevelopment of VNB.

      I am personally in favor of MUCH taller buildings in Van Nuys, especially when they are near the bus or train lines. I’d rather see a 3-acre site developed with 1 acre accomodating a 20 story building and a two-acre park if that were possible. I hate the the eating up of every square foot of developable land with one, two and three story garage fronted condos and townhomes. We need more imaginative and even Singapore-like apartments to alleviate the tragic and inhumane housing shortage. People are sleeping on the streets. So something needs to be done.

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  4. The apartment building seems like a good idea, but not sure if it’s right to put something like that there on that spot on the Blvd. Maybe if the area surrounding the building had already been revitalized, then it might make more sense. But if the surrounding area is not revitalized yet, and the tenants they want to attract do not materialize, will the apartments end up being low-rent Section 8 housing in the end? I do hope though that something will work out for the better with this idea, because seeing the picture of that market now occupying the building is heartbreaking considering how beautiful the pictures of the old savings and loan were!

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    1. I think the developer is ahead of the curve in recognizing that VNB is going to be better in the coming years. There are plans to put a center light rail/bus line down the middle of the street and with the additonal funds for public transportation and neighborhood revitalization, this is a good bet for building. There is so much demand for apartments and we need them like crazy. The rents, even in Van Nuys, are crazy.

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  5. In the interior of the old building there, the ceiling and lighting design still looks really cool–even today!
    I’m not so sure of those future plans, though. Tearing the old building down is a good idea, but those new plans for apartments right on Van Nuys Blvd.??? 😳 To me, that’s just ridiculous! 👎 I don’t like it! Seems really stupid to build that there! Well, who knows if that’ll ever happen anyway. Look what happened to the bright ideas that never came to be over in N.H. on Laurel Canyon and Victory, the huge property that used to be the Panorama Mall, and the old Laurel Plaza spot! Regardless, when it comes down to it, hearing these plans of grandiosity, I’ll believe it when I see it! 😱

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