They don’t build banks like they used to!

Lots of Willow Glenners have noticed that the Chase Bank (formerly Washington Mutual and Home Savings of America before that) is a beautiful building decorated with some amazing artwork.

We recently learned that the great mosaics were created by a prominent mid-century American artist named Millard Sheets. Sheets was a painter, teacher and architect, and among his many projects he designed and decorated dozens of banks for Home Savings of America, which originally built that bank building. There are two more pieces of Sheets’ work inside the branch. Sheets also painted a 20-by-30 foot mural depicting more than 1,000 years of Santa Clara Valley history that was hung in terminal C of San Jose Airport in 1977 until it was recently relocated as part of the airport renovation.

Willow Glen resident and history buff Margaret Ma contacted Professor Adam Arenson of the University of Texas at El Paso, who is documenting the art of the old Home Savings of America. He is currently working work on a book about the art of Home Savings of America branches. He maintains a fascinating blog about his research and important findings. According to Professor Arenson, “Millard Sheets was the head of the studio, Denis O’Connor oversaw all mosaics and Sue Hertel took care of the original sketches, color selection, and interior murals like those at San Jose.”

There’s also a very nice sculpture of a mother and her child along the Lincoln Avenue side of the bank. According to Arenson it is called “Mother and Child” and was created by John Edward Svenson. Three of them were produced: the one we know, another in San Bernadino, and one on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. The sculpture was originally installed as part of a water feature, but it was filled in and turned in to a flowerbed during the drought of the late 80s.

Willow Glen in the Metro's Best of Silicon Valley
History of North Willow Glen