I am fascinated by old buildings and signs, and have been known to stop my car and have my family wait on me as I snap photos of random buildings or signs. I wonder to myself what the history may be, and what life the walls may have lived in the decades before I passed by. Chino has some really great old buildings scattered around the city, and one is the old bank building that sits on the northeast corner of Sixth and D streets in the downtown area near City Hall. The tan-colored building towers above the others, with its many windows stretching to the top, near ornate carvings that bookend the etched name of the bank that operated there.
First National Bank of Chino served the people of Chino beginning in 1912, and from this historical building in 1925. The bank had originally opened as Chino State Bank in 1903 and expanded to a national bank in 1912 with $25,000 in capital.
The building is best known though as the original location of Bank of America, which came to Chino in 1928, when First National Bank of Chino sold to United Security and Trust Company, which became Bank of America. Bank of America loaned money, created savings accounts and financially assisted Chino there until 1956, when they moved to a newly built larger and more modern building on Central Avenue and C Street. The new location offered 18 bank teller windows, as opposed to six windows in the original location, a large parking lot, and eventually an area for drive-through teller windows. In 1992, Bank of America acquired Security Pacific National Bank, and in 1993, Bank of America closed its long running Chino branch and moved into the Security Pacific Bank location on Central Avenue and Washington Street, where it still operates today.
Herb’s Hardware expanded its D Street store west, moving into the Bank of America building in 1957. Herb Bajema sold hardware, gardening tools, paint and some household goods. His store was known to have everything anyone could need, and if Herb didn’t have it, he would get it.
He also sold appliances and gifts. The store was even used as a bridal registry for newlyweds. Herb was actively involved in the city and in 1979 retired and left the store to his son Ken.
In 1984, Herb’s Hardware was sold to Rich Bockstahler, a Chino High graduate and an employee of Herb’s who had entrepreneurial dreams of running the business. Rich kept the business running as usual, including early morning store start hours at 6 a.m. to serve the needs of local ranchers.
In the 1990s business slowed down. The newly opened Home Depot on Walnut Avenue was fierce competition, and combined with the recession of that time, eventually led to the store’s closing. In 1993, Herb’s Hardware closed, and the building that had provided Chino with its construction and repair needs for over 80 years, was vacant.
A few years later, the City of Chino rescued and rehabbed the building, and in 1999 opened the Chino Youth Museum. The museum became a place where youth could have parties, explore and learn through the museum’s mission statement of interactive learning to foster a better understanding of tomorrow through appreciation of yesterday and today.
The old bank building is now nearly a century old, and through its history of standing on the corner of downtown Chino, served the people of the city then and today. If you have never seen it, drive by and take a look.
It’s just west of Central, off of D, and I am sure you will enjoy the sight and quite possibly wonder as I often do, what the people of Chino experienced there 100 years ago.
Share your Chino memories and feedback by email at Chinomemories@gmail.com. Kerry Cisneroz, a longtime Chino Valley resident, enjoys sharing memories and nostalgia of the community, which can be found in his Facebook group, “Chino Memories – Yesterday & Today.”