Fresno art installation's removal doesn't add up for history buffs

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A well-known art installation is gone from outside a bank building in central Fresno, and the disappearance doesn't add up for its fans.

There's a blank space where an abacus sat for more than 60 years.

Someone hauled it away over the weekend, but as Action News did some digging, it seems the calculations have changed.

Bulldog Stadium, St. Columba Church, and several mid-century modern homes are the legacy of Robert Stevens.

The architect also designed the Fresno Guarantee Bank with a money mural and features like expansive glass and long horizontal lines embodying the optimism of the post-war era.

It also had an abacus outside, which bank managers used to indicate how much money they had in reserve.

Neighbors noticed crews dismantling it last weekend.

"The abacus was memorable," said Paul Halajian, an architect who sits on the Fresno Historic Preservation Commission. "People knew it. And to just remove it, it really degrades the building. And this is a fantastic building."

Halajian says the installation was a beautiful integration of public art and architecture that's rare these days.

He wasn't surprised to see lovers of public art and architecture outraged on social media.

"The fact that this city is dotted with buildings of this character that people care about, that says a lot about what people want here," Halajian said.

Shouts from a passing car interrupted our interview, and their urging to "bring it back" may be working.

A manager of the Citibank that now operates inside the building told me they don't know why the art was taken down, but they are bringing back the abacus.

Representatives from a Southern California construction company tell me they retrieved the disassembled pieces, and everything's in storage now, waiting to return.

"I'm very proud of the community for, you know, stepping up, and being cranky, and asking questions," said Karana Hattersely-Drayton, a retired Fresno Historic Preservation Officer. "That's what we need to do."

Local historians tell us the building has qualified for placement on the national register of historic places, but it isn't enrolled yet.

For that reason, the city is staying on the sidelines for now.

But Councilmember Nelson Esparza says he hopes the artwork is restored soon.
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