Neighborhood Fixture: CalFed is gone but it left its midcentury mark on Eagle Rock

When it was built nearly 50 years ago, the modernist form of the steel and glass California Federal Savings building in Eagle Rock stood out in a neighborhood of stucco Spanish-Colonial homes, clapboard bungalows and  brick storefronts.  Even today, the building (which now houses a Citibank branch) at the corner of Eagle Rock Boulevard and  Merton Avenue commands attention as one of the few, large midcentury-style commercial buildings in Eagle Rock.

Designed by the architectural firm Allison & Rible, the 20,00-square-foot building cost $700,000 to construct, according to a January, 1964 L.A. Times story announcing the building’s completion.  The new office building featured  floor-to-ceiling windows, fountains and a skin of glass, white, mosaic tile and contrasting “maroon, bronze-flecked tile” on the columns and other portions of the building.

Some of that tile is now missing in sections, the fountains have been removed and, inside, cramped elevators and narrow hallways could use some updating. But, as a whole, the building retains it modernist sensibility.

Who would construct an office building that would seem more at home on Wilshire Boulevard than on  Eagle Rock Boulevard?

Credit goes to Howard Edgerton, who as president of what became known as CalFed,  spearheaded the development of mid-rise and high-rise savings and loan offices and buildings across Los Angeles during the 1960s. One of those towers included an  eight-story high Echo Park office building that, like its shorter, Eagle Rock counterpart, now houses a Citibank branch.  The new, modern office buildings project an image that Edgerton said he thought was good for business. Said the Times in a 1962 story:

Attractive financial buildings, whether they provide a rental income for the owners or not, have a psychological way of attracting money. Edgerton describes it in terms of “image.” People have more confidence in affluent-looking institution.”

In addition to designing the look of California Federal’s Eagle Rock office, Allison & Rible also designed buildings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Claremont College and UCLA.

Neighborhood Fixture provides a bit of history and background about buildings and sites that catch our attention, for better or worse.

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