Saturday, November 16, 2019

Great Western Bank, 1956

Today's featured scan required a little detective work, and it was very gratifying when it paid off! The photo is dated (by hand) "9-14-56"; folks from SoCal might remember the Los Angeles Forum (aka the "Fabulous Forum"), which was known as the "Great Western Forum" from 1988 to 2003 - and this is a "Great Western Savings" building. In doing some research, I eventually found a website ( that had some good information - the website has since vanished; but I did copy part of the page.

The website said that this was "Crenshaw Savings and Loan", and that it was designed by architect W.A. Sarmiento of the Bank Building and Equipment Corporation of America. "Its design, an inverted trapezoid over a transparent cube, closely resembles the design for The Firestone Bank in Akron, Ohio." Strange that I can find no mention of it as a Great Western, and yet... here's the photo as evidence.

I found a single good photo of that Firestone Bank in Akron... you can see the family resemblance.

The Crenshaw Savings (or whatever it was called) building still exists as a Chase Bank at 4401 Crenshaw Boulevard. Here's a Google screen grab; it looks much the same, though we can see that an upper story was added at some point. Strangely, the aforementioned website said that this structure was built in 1958 (Wikipedia also cites 1958 as the date)...

But the slide mount is hand-dated "1956" - TWICE (once on each side of the slide). This discrepancy might cause an international incident!


Nanook said...


That's a pretty snappy example of mid-century modern architecture. And it looks decidedly-modern, standing behind that 'black', 1947 Cadillac. It's nice to see the building is still standing and being used - as a bank, no less.

Thanks, Major.

JC Shannon said...

Isn't it obvious? The photographer time traveled to the future to get the shot. Some photographers will do anything for the perfect pic. Try fitting a Flux Capacitor in an old Caddy. It ain't easy I tell ya. But seriously, it is a grand building. Glad to see that nobody felt the need to tear it down. Thanks Major.

Andrew said...

I always love catching glimpses of sleek old buildings like these. "Anything goes Thursdays" are the best! Thanks for the post.

TokyoMagic! said...

I love the look of this building. I don't even mind the addition of the extra story. The addition looks seamless. I wonder if an entirely new "trapezoid" facade was constructed, after the addition was made?

I wonder if that vintage pic of the bank could have been taken by Dennis Weaver, while riding horseback?

Nanook said...


I should have mentioned - I see from the current view, the present street lights have finally “caught-up” with the building. I assume Sarmiento would be pleased.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it’s a snazzy building! It took me a few views before I noticed the added upper level, to be honest - the original look was a bit sleeker, but it still looks good. Thanks for the ID on the Caddy!

Jonathan, I have the feeling that somehow an erroneous date of construction got out there and now everyone cites the same wrong info. I feel pretty superior, I’ll tell ya! Probably the fact that this building is in the Crenshaw district (not the greatest area) is how it survived, though it is getting gentrified just like all these kinds of places.

Andrew, I guess with the time change you are seeing this on a Thursday! ;-)

TokyoMagic!, it’s hard to tell from the photo, but I can only assume that they had to “re-face” the part of the building that has the extension (the white part). Who gets to be upstairs? I don’t get the Dennis Weaver remark, though I probably should.

Nanook, I sort of like those old 1930’s (?) street lights in the first photo! I should look to see if Google has updated their street view of this area, since I see that my screen grab is from 8 years ago.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, Dennis Weaver did the Great Western commercials from the early eighties up until the late nineties. "Great Western Savings....a new brand of banking!" He was often on a horse, in the commercials:

1984 Great Western Commercial

Dean Finder said...

The Great Western Building looks entirely mid century with its monocromatic exterior, while the Firestone building looks like something from the 1990s with its use of brick at street level.

Anonymous said...

Major,these are striking buildings.

Interesting that the 50's design would have such strong diagonal elements. I usually associate that style with work from the 70's.

The fins are interesting elements also. I agree, the addition of the upper floor makes the proportions better.

I often find in architectural research that there is confusion over the date of a building. Some records note the year construction started, while others note the year of completion. Generally, a year or two for construction is about right and often, design was a year or two before that, or even longer for costly or controversial designs. Your discrepancy is going the other way, though, unless the photographer was wrong, but with such a specific date that seems unlikely.

Of course, we can rely on Wikipedia for accurate information about how Santa Claus and Wild Bill Hickok conquered the Spartans at the Second Battle of Bull Run, so I'm going with the photographer here.


Andrew said...

Oh man, how did that get past me? I definitely meant to say "Anything Goes Saturdays," of course. I guess that's what happens when I comment first thing in the morning! But yes, I'll just stick with your explanation. :)