Designated Landmark Building in Santa Monica

The mosaic and statues will be moved to a museum in the city of Orange.
Photo: Santa Monica Conservancy

Will Be Dismantled and Its Artwork Removed

Stuck at the traffic light at Wilshire and 26th Street in Santa Monica, southbound motorists often look at the 40- ft. by 16-ft. Millard Sheets mosaic depicting a beach scene and the stained glass and bronze statues (by Richard Ellis and John Svenson).

A Pacific Palisades resident wrote Circling the News, “A couple years ago I read an article about it [the mosaic] getting historical status. Now I read on Nextdoor that it is being taken down ASAP. I love that mosaic. My questions are: 1) How come the removal of this mosaic was approved so quietly? 2) Is this a rumor or true?”

The building was indeed designated a historic landmark in March 2017. The property owner’s attorney, Roger Diamond, had threatened to sue the City of Santa Monica over the property’s designation as an historic landmark (www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2018/September-2018/09_05_2018_Iconic_Santa_Monica_Mosaic_Could_Be_Removed_Under_Legal_Settlement%20.html).

A May 2019 Santa Monica Lookout story (“Iconic Santa Monica Beach Mural Will Soon Be Removed”) stated: “The mural is being removed under a settlement agreement with the owner approved by the City Council last August. Under the agreement, the City revoked the historic designation, blocked any new application for five years and paid [owner Mark] Leevan $250,000.

“Leevan agreed to preserve the artwork – which also features stained-glass and bronze sculptures that depict a family playing in the surf and a child with dolphins – and donate it to the City or a nonprofit organization.”

The mural and sculptures will go to the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University in the city of Orange.

According to a June 6 Santa Monica Daily Press story (“New Home for Millard Sheets Mural”), “Brian Worley of Brian Worley Art & Restoration, who originally worked on fabricating the mosaic, will be collaborating with Rosa Lowinger and her team of expert conservators at Rosa Lowinger Associates.” Visit: rlaconservation.com.

The article noted that Millard Sheets’ son, Tony, was the person behind the Hilbert Museum accepting the gift.

Sheets designed more than 150 Home Savings bank buildings and their artwork, which was unique and tailored for the specific location.

A 2018 book by Adam Arenson (“Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California”) notes, “I want buildings that will be exciting seventy-five years from now,” financier Howard Ahmanson told visual artist Millard Sheets, offering him complete control of design, subject, decoration and budget for his Home Savings and Loan branch offices. The partnership between Home Savings—for decades, the nation’s largest savings and loan—and the Millard Sheets Studio produced more than 160 buildings in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri over the course of a quarter century. Adorned with murals, mosaics, stained glass and sculptures, the Home Savings (and Savings of America) branches displayed a celebratory vision of community history and community values that garnered widespread acclaim.”

Millard Sheets (1907-1989) was born in Pomona and was an artist and architectural designer.

According to the Los Angeles Conservancy, “In recent years, Sheets’ work has grown increasingly vulnerable to demolition and excessive alteration. The integration of art and architecture in his buildings underscores the importance of protecting both structure and site-specific art together, in situ, as part of Sheets’ unique legacy.”

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2 Responses to Designated Landmark Building in Santa Monica

  1. Louise Martin says:

    When I moved to L.A. in the mid-1950s I was so impressed with the design and mosaic murals of the Home S&L buildings. What a shame to have another one disappear but at least its art is being preserved. This building and the one in Beverly Hills are particularly outstanding. There was also a Home S&L building with murals at 4th and Arizona in Santa Monica but it was demolished years ago to make way for a larger and banal building.

    A lot of good it did to have the 26th St building designated an historic landmark. This should be a warning to all, that in spite of laws, vigilance is necessary. The LA Conservancy has helped save many historic homes and commercial buildings and needs our support. It also conducts walking tours of historic areas, lectures and other events. Check out its website.

  2. Betty Meadows says:

    Would love to see this mural in the Frank Gehry-Wolfgang Puck Gladstone’s project

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