The Street Seen: Paints
2821 Main Street @ Ashland
100 years ago this week, Fuller Paint Company, moves out of the 1-story building they have been occupying on the corner Ashland & Main, to make way for the construction of a new 2-story plus basement warehouse. As is Fuller Paint Company practice, the new building is constructed on property it owns.
Fuller temporarily moves across the street to 2812 - 2814 Main in April 1923, and in February 1924, moves back into their new building - distributing paint and window glass throughout the Santa Monica Bay area.In 1954, this branch of the Fuller Paint Company moves to 1271 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. The Ashland & Main building stands vacant for several years. There is no retail interest as there is little pedestrian traffic, and attempts to change the use to light industrial (women’s clothing manufacture) fail.
In 1958, Malibu Chris Craft man, Clay McConnell buys the building from Fuller for boat sales and boat repairs. McConnell renovates the building - including widening openings to be able to bring boats into the building on the elevator. However, Marina del Rey opens in 1965, and boating businesses gradually move to the marina.
In mid-1960s, the artist Sam Francis (1923 -1994)has a second-floor studio in the back of the building.
Francis is planning to move out in 1966, and offers his studio to newly arrived San Francisco Bay area artist and UCLA professor Richard Diebenkorn (1922 - 1993).Diebenkorn is 44. In 1967, Diebenkorn begins his Ocean Park series. In 1976, Diebenkorn moves into his new studio at 2448 Main Street - built on property he owns. Sam Francis returns - again occupying the front space of the Ashland & Main building from 1977 to 1978.
In 1978, the building is sold to Albert T. Ehringer (as Ocean Park Investments). In the late 1970s, Al Ehringer and John P. Wilson are buying up dilapidated buildings along Main Street, fixing them up and luring restaurants and shops to fill the space.Ehringer (a Western Airlines pilot, whose Grand American Fare company owns The Oar House at Main & Pier) spends $12 million for about 22 buildings on Main Street.
In 1981, South Pasadena based Mericos Real Estate Company acquires the building. In 1982, First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Santa Monica moves into the ground floor of the Ashland & Main corner.Movie trailer and marketing companies occupy the 2nd floor (207 Ashland). The Janov Primal Center, founded by Dr. Arthur Janov, occupies the ground floor (209 Ashland) from 1993 to 2021.
Next Week: R.D. Studio (1975 to 1988)
W.P. Fuller & Co. traces its origins to the pioneer firm of Fuller & Heather which begins in 1857 in Sacramento. William Parmer Fuller (1827-1890), born in New Hampshire, arrives in California in 1849 to dig for gold. When his panning doesn’t pan out, Fuller re-enters his old occupation — paper hanging. He partners with Seton Heather (1825 – 1896) and the company advertises itself as being "Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Paints, Oils, French Window Glass, Varnishes, Turpentine, Glue, Gold Leaf, Artists' Materials, etc." They rapidly grow.
In 1867, the three largest paint companies in the West, (i) Fuller & Heather, (ii) Oliver, and (iii) Cameron-Whittier consider merging in the face of competition from English paint manufacturers. William Franklin Whittier (1832-1919) forms a partnership with Fuller. Fuller buys Heather's interest in Fuller & Heather, and in 1868, Whittier, Fuller & Co. is formed. The company is now the largest dealer in paints, oils, and glass in the West. They also continue their mirror-making operations.
In 1890 when William P. Fuller dies, Whittier offers to buy out Fuller's interest in the business, but Mrs. Fuller refuses. The resulting dissension between Whittier, and Mrs. Fuller and her eldest son William P. Fuller II (1861-1936) leads to distraction and a decline in the business. Finally, the Fuller family buys out Whittier's interest in 1894, and the company is renamed W. P. Fuller & Co - concentrating on paints and window glass.
In 1968, W.P. Fuller & Co., the largest paint manufacturer in the West, buys South Bend, IN. based O'Brien Paint and Varnish Co. and the companies consolidate as Fuller O'Brien Paint Co. In 1995, the British ICI acquires Fuller O'Brien Paint Co. In 2008, ICI is acquired by Dutch firm AkzoNobel.
The 75’ x 90’ plan building and adjacent 50’ x 100’ parking are on a single 125’ x 100’ lot (APN 4288-003-023).
W.P. Fuller & Co. constructs many buildings (e.g. Spokane (1905), San Francisco (1907), Oakland (1914), Oakland (1914), Portland (1917), Fresno (1922), Salt Lake City (1922), Phoenix (1929)). The Ashland & Main building is probably designed by architects in the Fuller corporate office. The family and company sustained heavy losses in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and reinforced concrete construction is particularly attractive for designers at Fuller.
This year is the centenary of the birth of abstract painter and printmaker Sam Francis. Francis’ lifetime Santa Monica area residency is interspersed with years abroad in France and Japan. Francis uses the proceeds from his successful painting career to fund his own Santa Monica-based print shop, The Litho Studio, printing his works, and creating a community of experimental printers.
In 1966, the 2nd floor of the building (207 Ashland) consists of two large spaces ((i) front - windows facing west over Main St; and (ii) back - windows facing east up the hill to 4th St) and a small windowless room in the center of the building. A sailmaker (probably Robert Francis Broussard (1925 - 2011)) has the space at the front. Sam Francis has the space in the back.
When he arrives in 1966, Diebenkorn uses the small room in the center as a temporary studio, and in 1967, moves into Francis' vacated studio at the back. At about the same time, the sailmaker moves out, and Sam Francis decides to return and occupies the large front space. Francis (in front) and Diebenkorn (in back) overlap in the building for 5 years - but rarely interact.
Many of the first paintings Diebenkorn makes in his new studio are representational - notably a few landscapes and views from windows, such as the rooftop scene depicted twice, in 1969 and 1974.
The view through the studio window also plays some role in the abstract Ocean Park series paintings. Diebenkorn's back studio looks out and up at the hillside, the streets crossing one another, the power lines, and often - the marine layer fog.
In 1972, Sam Francis moves out and Diebenkorn moves into the large front space. The artist and UCLA professor Charles Garabedian (1923 - 2016) moves into the back space vacated by Diebenkorn.
Ocean Park No. 1 is painted in 1967, shortly after the Diebenkorn sets up in the back studio. Diebenkorn deems the next four paintings (Nos. 2 - 5) to be failures and they are destroyed. The next eight successful works date from 1968; then six from 1969 and ten in 1970, bringing the series up to No. 36. Ten more reaches No. 48 in 1971. The pace then slows to an average of five to six Ocean Park series paintings per year.
Amongst the stores that move in after the 1978 Ocean Park Investment Co renovations are:
(1978 – 1984) Aleph Books & Gifts.
(1978 – 1979) Kennedy-Wilson Real Estate Auctioneers. Kennedy-Wilson was founded in 1977 by auctioneers Donald F. Kennedy, John P. Wilson, and William Stevenson.
(1978 – 1982) John P. Wilson Architectural Antiques.
(1979 – 1992) Gardens in Glass – Mary & Jesse Cogswell (mother & son) stained glass.
First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Santa Monica becomes First Federal Bank of California. First Federal is caught up in the 2008 financial crisis and is closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision in 2009 - all 39 branches then re-open as OneWest Bank. In 2015, OneWest Bank is acquired by CIT Group, and in 2022, CIT is acquired by First Citizens BancShares. OneWest Bank closes the Ashland & Main branch in May 2022.