Millard Sheets as tourism

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Some 500 tickets were sold to Sunday’s tour of Millard Sheets sites in Claremont and Pomona (“Millard Sheets: A Legacy of Art and Architecture”), offered by the Los Angeles Conservancy, and while the rain probably kept some away, there were still plenty of people in attendance, including yours truly. We saw buildings and murals designed by Sheets, a Pomona native who died in 1989.

Above is Scripps College’s Garrison Theater, where Sheets’ exterior mosaics depict, from left, “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “King Lear.” Below is a mosaic from Claremont Eye Associates, formerly Sheets’ studio, which shows falconers and their birds. This wall fronts Foothill Boulevard. We got to eyeball the optical office (so to speak) and its original exterior walkway.

Also on the tour: US Bank (formerly PFF) at Indian Hill and Foothill boulevards in Claremont and, in Pomona, the pedestrian mall, Chase Bank (formerly Home Savings) and the American Museum of Ceramic Art (formerly PFF).

Docents, most of whom seemed to be from out of town, ranged from pretty good to pretty poor. One kid thought a vintage photo of the Sheets studio might date to the 1940s; a tourist took him aside to tell him the building was built in 1959. A woman at the US Bank swept her arm to encompass the intersection and said in 1969, when the bank was built, “none of this was here,” while looking at the 1911 Claremont High campus, the 1926 Wolfe’s Market nearby. LA types must think this was an utter wasteland. Nobody mentioned the Richard Neutra church next door to the US Bank either.

But some docents seemed to know their beeswax, the buildings and the tour booklet were outstanding, and of course the entire event was commendable as far as drawing attention to Sheets and the threats to some of his 1950s-1960s buildings.

“The Conservancy doesn’t get out this way very often, but I think we’ll do more in the future,” its executive director, Linda Dishman, said at a panel discussion afterward.

We’d be delighted to have them — rain or shine.

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  • John Clifford

    The Pomona history groups (Pomona Heritage, Historical Society of the Pomona Valley, Friends of the Pomona Fox) had tables set up outside the DPOA offices in the historic Millard Sheets Pedestrian Mall. It was a great experience talking to those out-of-towners and being able to show them a unique setting right up their alley.

    No rain the entire time, but some strong cold, arctic winds did dissuade folks from lingering too long.

  • Nice to meet you Sunday, David!

    It was a large and enthusiastic crowd, and some docents and visitors alike were thinking deeply, for the first time, about the importance of Millard Sheets’s importance in the nation’s midcentury art and architecture.

    Some of us have been at it awhile; to see dates, addresses, lots of images, and more interpretations of the significance of this work, visit

    [Yes, the attention on Sheets, and reappraisal of his work, is welcome. Sunday’s event helped get the conversation started. Adam is working on a book about Sheets’ Home Savings Bank work, which was centered in SoCal. — DA]

  • shirley wofford

    My husband and I are both patients at CEO on Foothill. I did not know about the history of the building, and never paid any attention to the art on the outside wall–did not know it was by Millard Sheets. Now I will stop to look on the way in, because a patient usually can’t see very clearly on the way out.

    [If you walk in from the street, look for the original sign identifying the building as the home of Millard Sheets Designs Inc. and Murals Inc., which is still in place. A nice touch. — DA]

  • shirley wofford

    I should have said CEA, not CEO. Sometimes, it’s not just an eye problem.

    I will have more appreciation for that particular building in the future.