Monday, May 24, 2010

First Bank Mosaics, Beverly Hills

These beautiful mosaics are on the facade of the First Bank at 9145 Wilshire Blvd--just down the street a block from the Chase Bank that was once the Beverly Hills Home Savings and Loan. (Here's a link to that Mosaic Monday post).

Ground was broken for this bank on February 19, 1959. It housed the new Ahmanson Bank and Trust Company branch, and the entire building, including these mosaics, was designed by Millard Sheets. Specs reported at that time were: 4,340 square feet and $350,000 to build--a figure that included the cost of the land.

The place opened December 10, 1959. Here's an ad for the new Ahmanson Bank, taken from the Los Angeles Times (as was most of the information in this post):

"Experts advised us that our dream was impossible. . . . .We believed there was a need for a bank catering to personal, substantial accounts." The italics are theirs.

(Gee, on Wilshire in Beverly Hills? Now, that was a leap!)

". . . Old-fashioned banking service has returned amid modern, comfortable, and pleasant surroundings." The ad finishes with an invitation to stop by: "Learn for yourself  how a strong independent bank can better serve your individual needs."

Does that sound like a 50-year-old ad, or one you saw in the paper yesterday?

In 1972 the bank was robbed by criminal, heroin addict, and author Edward H. Bunker. He was out on bail at the time, accused of drug possession, and he was caught quickly. While awaiting trial Bunker began directing a nationwide drug-trafficking ring that netted $15 million a year. Seems that since Bunker was representing himself in his upcoming trials, he had access to a pay telephone.

However, the line was tapped, and the jig was up. Conspiracy charges were added to bank robbery and the rest. Six weeks before his trial, Bunker's first novel was released: No Beast So Fierce--and by the time he was sentenced, he had a movie deal. Dustin Hoffman bought the rights, and the movie Straight Time was the result.

"I carry chaos with me the way some people carry typhoid," he told a reporter. Bunker has the distinction of being the youngest inmate at San Quentin (age 17). He played the night watchman in my favorite LA movie: Miracle Mile, 1988,and was one of the bankrobbers in Resevoir Dogs. All per Wikipedia.

Ah, the things we learn while piddling around!


Vanessa said...

I recently read an archived interview with Bunker in "Prison Life" magazine--which was effectively censored in the 90s and only exists in hard copy in the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley. I love that you've unearthed him in this other, more beautiful, if no less chaotic way. Thanks for this blog. It helps me love my city. I live in Korea town--maybe you can solve a few mysteries here I've not been able to...

Vix said...

THank you for stopping by! I'm not much good at solving mysteries, but it's amazing how interrelated and synchronistic life in LA can be.

Anonymous said...

Does the inside of the bank also have millard sheets artwork?

Vickey Kall said...

There are stained glass windows designed by Sheets inside near the rear of the building.