Home Savings, Santa Ana Branch

1300 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California

Artist and architectural designer Millard Sheets is a true Southern California treasure. For many of us who grew up near the familiar Home Savings & Loans or still pass by his remaining buildings with their colorful mosaics, they have become as much a part of the local landscape as palm trees that line boulevards and the San Gabriels on a clear day.

Born in Pomona, Sheets enjoyed early success in his career as an artist; in 1931, at age 24, he painted the Social Realist masterpiece “Angel’s Flight”, which won accolades nationwide. With prize money, he traveled to Europe and South America, then returned to the Pomona Valley to head the art departments at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School. Sheets also designed film sets and was an unlicensed but respected architect. He thrived on challenges: from 1939 to 1941 he designed several civilian flight training centers—the largest in nearby Chino.

Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Howard F. Ahmanson Sr. bought Home Savings in 1947 and hired Sheets in 1953 to enhance the culture of Southern California by designing his buildings and integrating art by local mosaicists, sculptors, ceramicists, and glass artists. In all, Sheets designed about 40 Home Savings buildings. The Santa Ana location is the fourth of the Orange County series of Home Savings sites.

Art + Architecture

Opening in early November 1966 with a week-long special preview in late October for Orange County civic and business leaders, the 17,500-square-foot building includes two stories and a basement and is clad in Roman travertine marble, which reflects, through its earth tones, a classic feeling further accentuated by the structure’s modern form and lines. It is situated diagonally on an elevated site at North Main and Washington. Because of its unique placement, noted The Tustin News, “the dramatic structure offers a continuing series of new vistas as it is approached in any of four directions.”

The mosaics at each location relate to the region or tell a story of the area's history, inhabitants, or geography. The Santa Ana branch’s mural depicts the history of Santa Ana, Balboa Bay, agriculture, industry, home building, and families. On the other side of the building, at the parking lot entrance, is a stained glass piece from the Sheets studio featuring children playing. Two sculptures of a man with a boy and a woman with a girl—by sculptor Renzo Fenci—flank the street-entrance mosaic.

The building is currently in use as a Chase Bank.

Lisa Taylor