|Located on Market Street adjacent to White Park sits the historic former Citrus Belt Savings & Loan building. A Spanish Baroque (Churrigueresque) façade was the focal point of the building built in 1926 for the Riverside Finance Company. A 1926 newspaper article described the building and its facade as follows:
“Plans have been completed for the handsome new office building of the Riverside Finance Company, at Market Street and Whittier Place. ... (the building) emphasizes a classical architectural design ... with an arched entrance of distinctive metropolitan character. ... The ceiling will be unusually high, giving a dignified and attractive effect to the interior of the building.” Riverside Press - Aug. 1926
In 1951, the Citrus Belt Savings and Loan Association purchased the building and in 1961, wanting a sleeker and more modern look (popular of the 1960s); the Citrus Belt Savings & Loan building underwent an exterior renovation. The classic facade was hidden behind a flat stucco wall partially shielded by thin, horizontal slats and held up by steel beams added around the bank and an adjacent building.
Years later, the current owner acquired the building and intended to demolish it, making way for a new project. Unaware as to what was behind the stucco wall, a hole was punched into the front stucco façade and revealed the classic façade that was hidden beneath for over 50 years. The demolition turned into a historical renovation and was programmed to house an arts and humanities collection of approximately 6,000 paintings and some 2,000 documents donated by Miné Okubo; a prominent Japanese-American artist best known for “Citizen 13660,” the seminal and first autobiographical account of the World War II Japanese-American internment camps, published in 1946.
As the 1960s stucco wall, portions of brick veneer and faux marble veneer at the base of the building came down; the original elaborately carved turquoise façade was revealed and preserved. The building was gutted and the structure was retrofitted to comply with current building codes. To help with the structural bracing an interstitial floor was added to brace the nearly 100 year old concrete walls and provide lateral bracing, the result was a seismically safe building that doubled the building’s square footage. Improvements include natural day lighting and access to views, new technology and building infrastructure, a preserved bank vault that will be utilized for special exhibits, and exposed original bow-truss roof framing. Most important of all the improvements is the restoration of this building’s façade to its original and intended character celebrating the city’s architectural history.
The fully restored building now houses the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties. At its core, the center is about learning from the past and prompting new insights into the struggles for racial equality, individual rights, and equal opportunity. The center fosters discussions on social justice and civil liberties through art and humanities collections, exhibits, multimedia resources, research, and community programs. The opening of the center was held on Miné Okubo’s 100th birthday.