Chase Bank/Lytton Savings, Hollywood | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Chase Bank/Lytton Savings, Hollywood

With its dramatic, folded plate concrete roof and glass-walled banking floor, the former Lytton Savings was a striking departure from traditional bank design when it opened in 1960. 

As financial institutions nationwide analyzed the need for progressive banking methods following World War II, architects responded by radically reinventing the bank’s form. Lytton Savings (as part of larger Lytton Center) typified these national postwar banking trends through its modern architectural design, transparency, and integrated art component, and is one of Los Angeles’ earliest remaining examples of this transformative shift in postwar-era bank design.

Located at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards at the western edge of Hollywood, Lytton Savings and larger Lytton Center occupies the former site of the Garden of Allah; the storied Hollywood inn with surrounding villas was purchased by Lytton in 1959 and razed to make way for the firm’s new home office.

Lytton Savings typifies the national banking trends in the postwar years. Lytton Savings, like Home Savings, California Federal, Great Western, and others, was a savings and loan financial institution that grew after World War II as an alternative to traditional banks. The savings and loans specialized in long-term personal lending, like savings accounts, certificates of deposits, and home mortgages, in contrast to traditional banks that focused on commercial and business clients.

Savings and loans were in high demand in the postwar years, as they financed the massive residential development boom. Their growth, along with the growth of the region, translated to the need for increased office space. Lytton Savings constructed the building on Sunset Boulevard as a new home office (as part of the larger Lytton Center), reflecting its modernity in the architectural design, transparency, and integrated art component. It is one of Los Angeles’ earliest remaining examples of this transformative shift in postwar-era bank design.

Company president Bart Lytton, an enthusiastic supporter of the arts, selected architect Kurt W. Meyer of the firm Hagman & Meyer, along with interior designer Adele Faulkner. Meyer’s design is unabashedly modern, using contrasting building materials and modernist forms. The building’s folded plate concrete roof, supported by slender vertical piers, caps a glass-walled façade of clerestories and ground-floor glazing offset by a mid-level band of book-matched, polished travertine that wraps around the building’s front and sides. Bouquet Canyon stone provides a contrasting texture on first floor walls flanking the central, glass-walled façade.

The building’s three-level interior is divided into a full-height banking floor inside the Sunset Boulevard entrance, which receives natural light from the clerestories and expansive glazing along the ground floor, and two upper levels of office and administrative spaces located beyond the banking floor. 

The more prominent of postwar-era bank buildings popularized the integration of abstract art components in the 1960s. At Lytton Savings, the banking floor contains a monumental dalle de verre (faceted glass) and concrete screen designed by acclaimed artist-craftsman Roger Darricarrere, who was one of the first practitioners of this type of stained glass technique in the United States. 

The 8 foot by 50 foot screen, which is significant as Darricarrere’s first commercial commission, is illuminated internally and serves both as an integrated component of abstract art and to separate the ground level public area from that containing the executive offices. Darricarrere later designed the monumental skylight for the now-demolished Columbia Savings Building on the Miracle Mile.

Following Lytton Savings’ completion in 1960, a commercial phase of development commenced at the rear of the site with the construction of a retail plaza, though a 12-story office tower proposed to rise above the plaza shops was never built. Lytton Savings later operated as a branch of Great Western Savings and more recently as Washington Mutual before being acquired by Chase.

Lytton Savings remains a significant example of postwar-era bank design in Los Angeles.  Other notable postwar-era bank structures by Meyer’s architecture firm, which became Kurt Meyer and Associates in 1963, include the Pomona regional office of Lytton Savings (1964) and the New Formalist style Financial Savings Building in Culver City (1966).  His Brutalist style Liberty Savings Building in West Los Angeles (1966), which is a seven-story office tower, is significant for its use of concrete.

Cathay Bank
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Cathay Bank

Designed by the first Chinese American architect to join the AIA in Southern California, Cathay Bank merges New Formalism with traditional Chinese decorative elements.