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A Tale of Two Banks: From Beaux-Arts to Mod Squad

By Maureen Neeley

Within our neighborhood, two commercial buildings vividly portray the architecture of our local history. The first has gone from bank to tavern but still serves its neighbors.

If you can, imagine life in Belmont Heights in the 1920s. Cars were certainly an item, though families had one vehicle and it was both narrow and unreliable. Most averaged around 20 mph; auto accidents were common.

Public transit was popular, however, since the Red Cars ran along Redondo. One could catch either the Broadway or the 7th Street spurs to head to downtown Long Beach. Of course, the Newport line trundled south to Orange County or north to L.A.

The banking industry took notice of the growth and wealth of Belmont Heights after the oil strikes on nearby Signal Hill. It was time to build a nearby branch so residents could safely deposit money.

In 1923, the Pacific Southwest Trust and Savings Bank took the plunge, hiring well-known architect Horace Austin to design a handsome Beaux-Arts structure at the SW corner of Redondo and Broadway, the epicenter of Belmont Heights commerce. Beaux-Arts style is known for its grand classical features and elaborate ornamentation. The developers were Deeble and Chapman and the contractor was C.T. McGrew, heavy hitters on the local construction scene at the time. The bank held two offices as well as ground-floor bays for storefronts, and two apartments filled the second story. InSteelhead 1925, the building also housed the American Meat Market and a Safeway Store, accessed from Broadway. At the 221 Redondo entrance, one could visit Dr. C. W. Borland, D.D.S., upstairs (where he and his wife also lived).

In 1933 the Long Beach Earthquake damaged the building. Wesco Construction led the renovation, this time in the popular Art Deco style, much more sharp-edged and linear. By 1935, the bank was gone and the new tenants reflected both the Great Depression and the end of Prohibition: Mrs. Marjory Hamilton’s beauty shop occupied 221 Redondo. The Broadway storefronts held two liquor stores: one owned by E.F. Slatt and the other by Paul Dale. Bank of America had opened on Second Street in Belmont Shore, as Second Street superseded the Broadway-Redondo corridor in commercial importance.

Today--although not a designated city landmark--the old bank building still stands, continuing to serve the neighborhood with Steelhead Coffee, Baddeley’s Pourhouse (a sports bar), and Flamin Curry take-out.

Erected in 1923, the Pacific Southwest Trust & Savings Bank on the corner of Redondo and Broadway in the popular Beaux Arts style [credit: Historical Society of Long Beach]