East LA bank building gets national historic designation

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Last week, a 1960s bank building in East Los Angeles became just the second structure in the neighborhood named to the National Register of Historic Places.

On Friday, the LA Conservancy announced on its Facebook page that the Pan American Bank building, located at 3626 East First Street, had been officially added to the register as a property worthy of preservation—and thus eligible for key tax breaks to assist with the costs of maintenance and upkeep.

Built in 1965, the building is home to the oldest Latino-owned bank in California and one of the oldest Latino-serving financial institutions in the nation.

As the Conservancy notes on its website, the bank was established by Romana Acosta Bañuelos in partnership with a group of local investors and business owners. Bañuelos, who founded Ramona’s Mexican Food Products, later went on to become the first Latina treasurer of the United States.

The building was designed by architect Raymond Stockdale in the New Formalist style that characterized many of Southern California’s bank buildings of the early 1960s. Its most recognizable feature is a five-panel mosaic mural designed by Mexican artist José Reyes Meza. Called “Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future,” the work was recently restored under the supervision of local muralist Willie Herrón III.

The bank was founded as a neighborhood-serving institution, with bilingual assistance for local residents who faced discrimination at many other banks at the time. The Conservancy points out that it’s the first East LA building named to the register for its association with Latino culture and heritage.

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