AKA: Savings Union Bank of San Francisco, Headquarters, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - banks (buildings); built works - commercial buildings - corporate headquarters

Designers: Bliss and Faville, Architects (firm); Mathews, Arthur F. and Lucia Kleinhans, Designers (firm); Walter Danforth Bliss (architect); William Baker Faville (architect); Arthur F. Mathews (designer); Lucia Kleinhans Mathews (designer)

Dates: constructed 1909-1910

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1 Grant Avenue
Tenderloin, San Francisco, CA 94108

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Overview

The prestigious San Francisco architectural firm of Bliss and Faville designed this Beaux-Arts Classical building at 1 Grant Avenue in c. 1908. In its scale, portico and dome, it resembled the Pantheon in Rome, a favorite of Beaux-Arts architects. Construction occurred during 1909-1910, with the structure opening in very early 1911. This bank replaced a four-story, wood-frame building on the site, and formed, with the Wells Fargo Bank across the street, an impressive Neo-Classical tandem marking the start of Grant Avenue. Costructed just after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the client prized structural solidity for this bank; constructed of steel and reinforced concrete, the building was, if anything, overbuilt to endure another temblor. The local newspaper wrote: "The structure is of great solidity, having a steel frame embedded in reinforced concrete. It is a practically a solid monolith and is believed to be indestructible." (See "New Savings Union Bank Is a Monumental Structure," San Francisco Call, 12/31/1910, p. 9.)

Building History

For many years, the San Francisco Savings Union had occupied sites on California Street, from about 1867-1906, at 532 California. This location was destroyed in the Earthqake and Fire of 04/18/1906, necessitating the bank to find temporary quarters. This it found in the old Parrot Granite Block built in 1852, which miraculously survived the disaster intact. Quarters in the Parrott Block, occupied about five years, served as the San Francisco Savings Union's Headquarters #5. Soon after moving, the bank began scouting new locatons for a new permanent headquarters. It found a new site at Grant Avenue and Market Street, c. 1908, and began the planning of a new, and structurally secure facility. While constructing this new building at 1 Grant Avenue, the San Francisco Savings Union (formed in 1862) merged with the San Francisco Savings and Loan Society in 09/1910. This new combined entity was known as the "Savings Union Bank of San Francisco," and opened for business at this new location with $30 million in deposits on Tuesday, 01/03/1911.

Building Notes

A number of noted artists, architects and craftsmen collaborated on the appointments of the bank. According to the San Francisco Call: "It was the endeavor of the officers of the Savings union to make their new building the embodiment of the finest work of San Francisco artists and artisans. Working in conjunction with the architect were several of the city's leading artists. Haig Patigian designed the head of the goddess carved in the pediment above the front entrance, as well as the two eagles rising in flight. Arthur Putnam designed the buffalo heads on the large candelabra and on all the lighting fixtures. The monumental bronze doors at the building were designed by Arthur Mathews. The bronze panels show four successful period in the race development of California--first the Indian, then the Franciscan missionary, followed by the miner, and, last of all, a youth symbolizing the new San Francisco, in the act of carving a city out of a block of stone. Artist John Zeile designed the director's room, which is up under the dome. The style of this room is French Renaissance. The spirit of the period is carried out in the mural decorations, the woodwork and the furniture." (See "New Savings Union Bank Is a Monumental Structure," San Francisco Call, 12/31/1910, p. 9.)

Husband and wife designers Arthur F. (1860-1945) and Lucia Mathews (1870-1955) gained a lofty reputation in the Bay Area for their architecture, paintings, and particularly their decorated furniture. The Oakland Museum of California has preserved approximately "...500 paintings, drawings, frames, furniture, and other decorative art produced by Arthur and Lucia Mathews in the early years of the 20th century. In addition, the Museum is also home to the Mathews's archive, a collection of sketches, notes, cartoons, and other memorabilia." (See Oakland Museum of California, "Collection: Arthur and Lucia Mathews," accessed 10/10/2017.)

San Francisco Historic Landmark (1981-04-09): 132

PCAD id: 19756