Preservationist works to save landmark and family’s legacy

| January 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

The City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission agreed Jan. 20 to take under consideration the nomination of the Hollywood Home Savings and Loan (aka the Chase Bank) on the corner of Sunset and Vine for Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) status.

Designed by artist Millard Sheets for Howard Ahmanson Sr., whose Savings and Loan helped build southern California during the post-war boom, the bank is beloved for its mosaics, murals and stained glass depicting the history of Hollywood through the lens of the motion picture industry.

HOWARD AHMANSON SR.’S great-grandniece, preservationist Kathryn Ahmanson.

But what made this occasion at the Commission particularly interesting was that it was Howard Ahmanson’s great-grandniece who applied for the nomination. She is a resident of Hancock Park and a graduate student at USC School of Architecture’s masters in Heritage Conservation program.

Kathryn, having learned the family’s history and seeing her uncle’s architectural legacy (as well as growing up in a historic house in Hancock Park) was drawn to architecture. “Originally I thought I wanted to be an architect,” Ahmanson said, “However, I soon discovered that I was less interested in the design of buildings than the stories they have to tell.” This led Kathryn to the field of historic preservation, the masters program at USC and an internship with Hollywood Heritage Inc. (Full disclosure: I serve as Hollywood Heritage Inc.’s current president).

Hollywood Heritage had long wanted to landmark the bank, so when Kathryn was asked to write the nomination, she jumped at the chance to designate and hopefully preserve the first of her family’s remaining collection of bank buildings.

HOLLYWOOD HOME SAVINGS AND LOAN (aka Chase Bank now) on Sunset and Vine is being considered for City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument status.

The former Hollywood Home Savings and Loan sits on the northeastern corner of Sunset and Vine, sacred ground with regards to Hollywood history. This is the block where previously sat the Lasky-DeMille Barn, where the first full-length Hollywood feature, “The Squaw Man,” was filmed in 1914. The site was later occupied in 1938 by NBC’s Streamline Moderne monument Radio City Hollywood, which was demolished in 1964 following the broadcaster’s move to Burbank. Howard Ahmanson purchased the lot and soon began construction of his new bank branch in 1967.

CELEBRITIES ARE featured on the murals, including Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp, above.

Designed by the famed artist Millard Sheets, architect of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire between Plymouth and Lucerne boulevards, the Hollywood Home Savings and Loan is an example of New Formalism, a style Howard Ahmanson chose for Home Savings buildings as they would appear timeless yet modern. Given complete freedom and sparing no expense, Sheets designed a “jewel box” which he decorated with mosaics depicting Hollywood movie stars, a mural of scenes from “The Squaw Man” and stained-glass windows designed by Sue Hertel to look like film strips. Of the finished product, Sheets was quoted as saying, “That’s one that everybody admires. It’s been reproduced in all sorts of magazines all over the country. The tourist agencies run busloads of people out there every week in Tanner buses to look at the building… That building has become a kind of a landmark in many ways for a lot of people.”

MOSAIC of actor Charles Laughton as King Henry V.

To Kathryn Ahmanson, the preservation of the bank is personal: “To me, it’s a way of keeping our family history alive and recognizing the significance of not just Home Savings and Loan, but also Howard’s relationship with Millard Sheets that resulted in this amazing culmination of art and architecture unlike anything else.” Now that the building has been taken under consideration for HCM status, perhaps it will truly become a monument, thanks to the efforts of Kathryn and Hollywood Heritage.

Kathryn Ahmanson will be giving a virtual presentation on the Hollywood Savings and Loan and the Historic Cultural Monument nomination process Thurs., Feb. 24. For details, go to

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Category: Real Estate

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