A City, A Bank, A Family
April 1, 1989
The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Spring 1989, Volume 35, Number 2
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor
Cover: The revolving aerial beacon atop San Diego Trust & Savings Bank’s main office building in downtown San Diego is also the bank’s logo for this year’s centennial celebration. A special article and selection of photographs in this issue pays tribute to this 100-year-family-held enterprise and their commitment to the city. Courtesy San Diego Trust & Savings Bank.
This fourteen story Italian Romanesque Revival style structure was opened to great acclaim on April 14, 1928 and quickly became a landmark of the San Diego cityscape. The combination bank and office building serves as San Diego Trust’s headquarters.
The First National Bank Building, at Fifth and E Streets in 1889, housed the first offices of San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, then San Diego Savings Bank.
The Bank moved to larger quarters in 1913 at Fifth and F Streets.
Interior of the First National Bank building showing the area utilized by the San Diego Savings Bank.
Joseph W. Sefton Sr. and Joseph Sefton Jr. are shown here on the grounds of the family home in the early 1900s.
A formal portrait showing Joseph Sefton Jr. and his sister, Lena in the late 1890s.
Myron T. Gilmore, first cashier of the San Diego Savings Bank, was elected to the position of president in 1909 which he held for twenty-six years.
The Bank’s Articles of Incorporation, dated April 1, 1889.
Joseph Sefton Jr., an avid collector of fine automobiles, and John Barrett, president of the Pan American Union, in Sefton’s Lozer-Briarcliff touring car on their way to groundbreaking ceremonies for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915.
Bylaws for the Bank were written into a ledger that would include the minutes of Board of Directors meetings.
The Bank adopted the ad slogan in 1914.
The first branch office, Park West, opened on December 27, 1956, on the corner of Sixth and Laurel Street across from Balboa Park. This property was the site of the first Sefton family home in 1889.
This vessel named “Orca,” was purchased in 1948 by the Joseph W. Sefton foundation to serve as an oceanographic research ship. Completely redone to Joseph Sefton Jr.’s specifications, the boat was used by scientists and researchers from various institutions and universities to explore the coastal waters off Baja California.
The main banking hall gleams with the elegance of nineteen types of marble, flooded with light from the tall arched clerestory windows high above the lobby. The Bank’s interior decor has retained all the handsome elements utilized by the architect, William Templeton Johnson, and the banking room remains a fine testimonial to his work.
During World War II women entered the field of banking in large numbers to replace the men employees who had entered war related employment or the armed services.
The Bank’s shooting range (on the top floor of its downtown office building) was installed by Joseph Sefton Jr. so that everyone “would know how to shoot straight in case of robbery.”
The present day San Diego Trust & Savings Bank Museum is located in its downtown headquarters building for the public’s enjoyment.
This large home was built at the corner of Sixth and Laurel Streets by Joseph W. Sefton Sr. in 1889 shortly after his decision to move permanently to San Diego.
The scene of many a social gathering, the gardens also contained a large screened aviary as Sefton was a collector of birds and had an extensive collection of species (below). After his death in 1908, his widow and son gave the birds to the city and this assemblage became the foundation for the current collection in the San Diego Zoo.
Joseph Sefton Jr., his wife and mother are seen riding an elephant in India on their trip around the world in 1910 and 1911. Helen Thomas Sefton (opposite) wife of Joseph Sefton Jr., is shown here with a Victory Bond in 1918. A great aviation enthusiast, she was the third woman in the U. S. to ride in an airplane.
Helen Thomas Sefton wife of Joseph Sefton Jr., is shown here with a Victory Bond in 1918. A great aviation enthusiast, she was the third woman in the U. S. to ride in an airplane.
Joseph Sefton Jr. (extreme right, second row from top) class of 1905, played on the Stanford University football team which participated in the First Rose Bowl game in 1902.
Thomas W. Sefton (right), and a cousin (left), as a young boy dressed in clothing suitable for flying from the family’s property in the Jamacha area.
Thomas and Joseph Sefton Jr., father and son, seen here in a relaxed moment in the early 1950s. Brought into the Bank by their fathers at young ages, both men learned banking in all aspects, working their way through a variety of positions before reaching the top.
Thomas Wolcott Sefton, current chief executive officer of San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, with his son, Harley Knox Sefton, representing the fourth generation of banking Seftons.
Joseph Weller Sefton, founder of the San Diego Savings Bank (now San Diego Trust & Savings Bank), and his wife, Harriet Lyle Hollida. They were married on April 16, 1878 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Back Cover: A revolving aerial beacon was a distinctive feature of the main office of the San Diego Trust & Savings Bank from 1928 to 1933.