Half an Idea

For years the management, board persons, worker bees and other members of the DSABA (Downtown Santa Ana Business Association) have entered and left through one entry of the only headquarters they have ever had: 116 West 4th Street. But, what do people know about the interesting building?

In 1610 Mr. C. E. French (that would be where French Park got its name) happened to be president of the Orange County Savings and Trust. Historic records show that there was a bank on this site as early as 1888! Mr. French (not the gentleman for whom the kiss is named), along with board members George Minter and J. W. Towner (those would be names of streets and buildings with which we are all familiar) built a bank. They were of the same mind as the “third” of the three littlle pigs—as they built their bank of brick&mdashlest someone, a century ago, should huff and puff.

The present classical façade with two rich Corinthian columns (not made famous by Ricardo Mantablan) once extended all the way to the sidewalk and made a powerful statement for all who walked beneath them. The cornice, entablature and dental work (the horizontal parts of the building above the columns, for you cross word puzzle freaks) helped make the statement that the building was a “Temple of Finance.” The OCS and T gave way to the Bank of Italy in 1930 and then became the (trumpet fanfare) Bank of America in 1935. Whether the building was “huffed and puffed” to some extent by the earthquake in 1933, and so required repair, is not clear. However, in 1952, the Bank of America removed the marble columns and created one of the oddest buildings along Fourth Street. They “modernized” the lower part of the structure and replaced much of the marble and architectural terra cotta with (what else) stucco. Soft of “half” an idea.

The beautiful columns, as half of what once was, can now best be seen from across the street. The other classic proportions of the bank are all still there, but only above the line of the second floor. One of the City’s walking Historic Tour writings begs the question, “Perhaps someday the columns will be returned to their original splendor.”

(Donald Krotee, “Half an Idea,” Downtown Business News, July 2000)

Diana NguyenBusiness News