Not so long ago, banks were symbols of stability and built in architectural styles reflective of that, like Greek revival, replete with columns and Palladian proportions or beautifully embellished Beaux Arts splendor. It was easy to spot the bank in most communities of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But by in the mid-20th century confidence was plenty high, and that exuberance echoed in imaginative new designs for these institutions like the current Bank of America building in Palm Springs.
In 1958, Southwest Builder and Contractor magazine proclaimed the Palm Springs headquarters of the then City National Bank of Beverly Hills to be “one of the most dramatic structures to rise in Southern California.” The unique triangular-shaped lot at the intersection of Ramon Road and Palm Canyon Drive was brilliantly sited, with a likewise roughly triangular-shaped building that represented a new and specific idea in banking.
Designed by Victor Gruen and Associates with an integration of parking and banking intended to make the bank visible and easily accessible to passing traffic. The rich adornment of blue glass mosaic tile and the organic curvilinear form suggested the famous Le Corbusier influence. The magazine called it “the most beautiful bank in America.”
There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 82 in 2020. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.
The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For more information, visit pshistoricalsociety.org.