Redlands bank will become a restaurant while keeping artist’s mural

Redlands bank will become a restaurant while keeping artist’s mural

In Redlands, there’s a former Home Savings on the corner of Redlands Boulevard and Orange Street.

Home Savings buildings are instantly recognizable. Clad in travertine marble, they feature mosaics, sculptures and other refined touches that made them distinctive. Artist and architectural designer Millard Sheets crafted some 150 of them for financier Howard Ahmanson from 1956 into the 1980s.

Most are still standing, and many are still banks, while others have become stores or offices. You see them around Southern California in particular.

Redlands’ branch has been largely vacant since Chase Bank left in late 2017.

Having made something of a study of the work of Sheets, I was startled recently to see a construction fence around the building’s perimeter. The landscaping was dug up and dirt was piled in mounds.

What’s coming? To cut to the, uh, chase, it’s a restaurant and bar, Finney’s Crafthouse.

And the building’s signature mosaic mural, which was overseen by Sheets himself, will stay. That’s good news.

A rendering of the Home Savings building after renovation for a Phinney's Craft House, showing outdoor dining on the street frontage on Redlands Boulevard under the mural and wrapping around the Orange Street side. (Courtesy City of Redlands)
A rendering of the Home Savings building after renovation for a Phinney’s Craft House, showing outdoor dining on the street frontage on Redlands Boulevard under the mural and wrapping around the Orange Street side. (Courtesy City of Redlands)

While the 1980 building is too new to be a registered city landmark, the mural is considered important as far as City Hall is concerned. VantageOne, the developer, didn’t need any persuading.

“The developer is working with us. He wanted to preserve the mural,” Brian Desatnik, the city’s development services director, tells me Wednesday afternoon.

Sheets, who was born in Pomona in 1907 and died in 1989, was a painter, muralist and architectural designer who worked from a studio in Claremont. He was also the longtime director of Fine Arts at the L.A. County Fair, as mentioned in a recent column.

Sheets personally worked on the design of the Redlands branch, one of the last in which he was involved, and helped choose the location. That’s according to Adam Arenson, who researched Sheets for his book “Banking on Beauty,” which is largely about the Home Savings buildings.

Artists from the Sheets studio involved in the Redlands branch were Sue Hertel, Jude Freeman, Katie Boesen and Brian Worley, according to Arenson’s records.

The Millard Sheets mural in Redlands in December 2018, just before Chase Bank moved out. (File photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The Millard Sheets mural in Redlands in December 2018, just before Chase Bank moved out. (File photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

The mosaic features a triptych of images. Depicted are the 1890 Morey Mansion, the 1898 A.K. Smiley Public Library and the 1927 Memorial Chapel at the University of Redlands. Citrus pickers are seen, as well as women in Victorian dress. (Who are not picking oranges, to be clear. They had people for that.)

Arenson was optimistic about the reuse.

“I think that creative reuse of the buildings that preserves their artwork is always good news,” Arenson says by email. “These buildings were created to celebrate the local community, so when new businesses can take on that mantle, everyone benefits.”

There’s a lot of development underway or planned around downtown Redlands, by the way. Much of it is spurred by opening of the Arrow light-rail line. Some is being done by tech company Esri’s real estate arm, Property One LLC.

The 1909 train depot has been renovated for new uses. Two small retail buildings are under construction between the depot and the former Home Savings. (One will become a bank.)

Two separate housing developments are coming to sites along Eureka Street: the 145-unit Grand Apartments and the 131-unit City Center Apartments.

State Street Village will put 700 residences on the 11-acre site of the former 1975 Redlands Mall downtown. The mall will be demolished, much like that other zombie mall, Carousel in San Bernardino, and a street grid re-established.

And that’s not everything. Basically, Redlands is roaring.

Claremont, where Desatnik was planning director before decamping to Redlands six years ago, has a parallel with Redlands. Orange Street now is “an edge street” bordering downtown, much like Claremont’s Indian Hill Boulevard before downtown expanded to the west side of the street 15 years ago.

Like Indian Hill, Orange Street will end up “more like a downtown street,” bisecting an expanded downtown, Desatnik explains.

The Millard Sheets-designed mural on the former Home Savings dates to 1980 and depicts scenes from Redlands' past. The mural will remain after the building is renovated for a restaurant and bar. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The Millard Sheets-designed mural on the former Home Savings dates to 1980 and depicts scenes from Redlands’ past. The mural will remain after the building is renovated for a restaurant and bar. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Of the former Home Savings that will become Finney’s, Desatnik says: “That building is going to be in the middle of all this activity. It may not look like a great site now, but it will be.”

Should we bank on it?

While in Redlands

I ate lunch at Corner Bakery, one of the few places where this 59-year-old qualifies for a senior discount, which starts at 55. Picking up my tray, I was walking back to my table when a woman in athleisure apparel approached and said expectantly, “Is that for Number 10?”

I blinked once or twice as my brain interpreted what was happening. “I’m a customer,” I told her, chuckling, before continuing on to my table.

Some 45 minutes later, we happened to drop off our empty trays at the same time. She made no sign of recognition. Well, I’m glad to know she got her food.

Cagle’s closes for now

Cagle’s Appliance Center has been on East Holt Boulevard in Ontario since 1952, but that run is due to come to an end Wednesday.

Dozens of properties along narrow blocks of Holt are being taken under eminent domain by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority to clear a path for the West Valley Connector, a rapid bus line from Pomona to Rancho Cucamonga with 19 miles of dedicated lanes. It’ll be similar to the sbX bus line in San Bernardino and Loma Linda.

Owner Debi Cagle, whose parents founded the business, politely declined an interview, noting that she’s hardly the only business affected and that she’ll talk once a relocation has been arranged. In the meantime, Cagle’s must vacate on May 31.

In a statement posted in her shop for customers, she wrote: “On behalf of the entire Cagle family, I want to thank you for your continued business and loyalty for these past 70-plus years.”

David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, loyally. Email dallen@scng.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.

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