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Media Life

Auburn bank beauty then. Lost landmark now

Bank of America building part of 1930s cluttered streetscape
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at

or 530-852-0232. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.

 

One of Auburn’s overlooked lost landmarks stands before you today, testament to a time when buildings - bank buildings especially - were constructed with a look that oozed financial stability.

The Bank of America Building on Lincoln Way was severely updated in the years following the time this photo was taken in the 1930s.

A photo from earlier this week shows that while the names of businesses have changed, much of the rest of the streetscape remains the same, anchored by the Auburncentric Tahoe Club architecture rising between the Koffee Kup and Bottle Shop signs.

The 1930s photo could be labeled “Man Walks Into a Bank” because of the dapper blade puffing on a cigarette, one hand on the “suicide door” of his swanky sedan.

Perhaps he’s about to enter the Bank of America building to do some business with manager Guy Brundage.

A look at 1930s Auburn and the Bank of America would be remiss without a word about Brundage - an A-Town stalwart of the highest reputation who would receive a headline accolade on his death in October 1959: “Guy Brundage was a great civic leader.”

 

Civic Leadership

Brundage, a Michigan native, would arrive in 1908 in Auburn and immediately establish himself as a trusted banker and hard-core civic promoter. Brundage would retire from banking in the 1940s and continue in business as a real estate salesman out of his 182 College Way home until his death.

In the 1930s, Brundage would marshal community clout to press for and win a junior college for Auburn. By then he had also already co-founded the Auburn Rotary Club and seen his own Auburn bank expand to branches in Newcastle, Lincoln, Colfax and Truckee before being bought in 1928 by L.M. Giannini’s Bank of America. One of Brundage’s earliest missions was to spearhead the drive to build the new Masonic Temple on Central Square in the 1910s.

By the late 1930s, the California-based Bank of America was the ninth largest bank in the world but it still had a local advisory board in Auburn taking care to ensure the financial institution had a local voice.

Perhaps the first thing you notice in the 1930s photo are the exotic cars - kind of a Cruise Nite in real time.

But there’s much more to see, particularly if you zero in on the changes, like fewer telephone poles and that “Stop For Pedestrians” sign at the crosswalk in the middle of the street.

Next to the bank is a drug store in a building that is now the Tre Pazzi restaurant. Drug store owner F.S. Stevens had installed a soda fountain by then, so ice cream was in the offing as well as prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.

 

PG&E Survives

Farther down Lincoln Way is the Sprouse- Reitz store, part of a Western U.S. chain of five-and-dime stores that would survive into the 1990s.

Past the Tahoe Club is a gas station and a sign on a brick building showing the lone surviving business today from the 1930s - Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The Bank of America building was remodeled before the bank’s move to the north, leaving the streetscape with a streamlined version that still contains accoutrements of its banking days like a night deposit box on the exterior and a safe inside the building.

During World War II, Brundage would lead a winning effort over Sacramento interests to ensure the DeWitt General Army Hospital would be located in North Auburn. And he would partner with Placer Savings & Loan’s Paul Claiborne to keep the complex - now the Placer County Government Center - from being torn down after the war.

In 1988, during Auburn’s centennial year, Brundage would be named one of the 100 people who most influenced the community.

It’s a fitting tribute for a banker who was likely sitting in his office in the bank the day the photo was taken, working to help make Auburn a greater place.

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or 530-852-0232. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.