A recent trip to Palm Springs reminded us of that city’s sizable collection of mid-century modern architecture, including the former Coachella Valley Savings & Loan building pictured above. Designed by E. Stewart Williams, the building is an excellent example of modern bank design from the 1960s.
We’ll explore some of these desert gems at a later date. But the two-day visit also reminded us of a number of modern gems closer to home, a few of which we will share now.
The building that probably best resembles the style of the one pictured above is Riverside’s main library (aka, Central Library). Located on Mission Inn Avenue in downtown Riverside, the building’s striking appearance stands out among its Spanish-influenced neighbors. As such, it has suffered from harsh criticism through most of its existence. And though better appreciated these days by younger generations, the structure is currently in danger of being demolished to make way for what’s expected to be a new library building. (For what it’s worth, we actually admire the current library building.)
As with the Coachella Valley Savings & Loan, the Riverside library’s “floating” walkway, large overhang, symmetrical “screens” and rigid, box-like appearance are all trademarks of mid-century modern architecture. Both buildings are in the vein of the New Formalism style of modern architecture, which was popular for public, institutional and financial buildings during the 1960s.
Elsewhere, one of the Inland region’s best mid-century office buildings can be found in downtown San Bernardino. Built for the State of California in 1966, the 303 Building housed state offices for over 30 years until a new building opened a few blocks away in 1998.
In 2007, after sitting vacant for several years, the building reopened following a $25 million renovation by the County of San Bernardino. The refurbishment included removal of asbestos and lead paint, but the building’s exterior retained its mid-century designs, including the slender vertical screens.
Another local gem is Provident Bank in downtown Redlands. Designed by Riverside architect Clinton Marr, the building’s tall, rigid walls project strength and security — an architectural trait sought by banks during the mid-century era. Its undulating, rippled roofline adds a futuristic touch to the structure.
Though certainly not as prevalent as in Palm Springs, the local region does have its fair share of modern residences, with the majority of these found in Redlands and Riverside.
The region also has a number of mid-century churches, including the fanciful chapel at Wesley United Methodist Church located on Arlington Avenue in Riverside. Another Clinton Marr design, the 1959/60 hat-box looking chapel was built using “a thin shell form finished in gunited concrete.”
Finally, one of the best collections of local modern architecture can be found at UC Riverside, where several buildings were constructed during the 1950s and 1960s. Of particular interest are the Rivera Library, Olmsted Hall and University Theater buildings, each unified via the use of an archway motif.
Also noteworthy at UCR is the 161-foot-tall Carillon Tower. Designed by the firm of A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons — one of America’s best-known modern architectural firms — the 48-bell carillon was officially dedicated in October 1966.
We hope to explore these and others modern gems in more detail in the coming months. As usual, be sure to use the comment section to tell us of your own favorite modern building(s) scattered about Inland Southern California (particularly those hidden gems we may not know about).
Images courtesy of: * Pomona Public Library
Sources: UC Riverside, Clinton Marr & Associates (1964 booklet), The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside