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The Castro Street Store That Once Held the Bank of Italy's Western Branch

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Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.
Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side.




[Then photo: SFMTA Photo Archive/ Now photo: Google Maps] The corner building at 400 Castro has hit the rental market again after a plan to turn it into an all-male burlesque club was withdrawn. The space has sat vacant since Diesel closed up shop (due to a rumored 50% rent hike), but long before that the unique corner was home to a branch of the omnipresent Bank of Italy.

Built in 1922 by Edward Foulkes, the Beaux-Arts building originally served as a western branch of the Bank of Italy. Amadeo Peter Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 to serve immigrants other banks would not. When the 1906 Earthquake and Fire hit, Bank of Italy was the only bank to open up right away, with an incredible story of Giannini sorting through the bank's rubble to find money and hiding it in a wagon covered in garbage. Since many had lost all of their money in other destroyed banks, Bank of Italy became the top (and only) loan provider immediately following the earthquake, making it mind-bogglingly successful. By the mid-1920s, it was the third largest bank in the nation.

One way Giannini grew the bank was by opening branches throughout the city and California - a practice that wasn't typical like it is today. The Castro branch opened in 1922. The Bank of Italy merged with the smaller Bank of America based out of LA in 1928, and two years later Giannini changed the name "Bank of Italy" to "Bank of America" - perhaps you've heard of it?

The Castro location remained a Bank of America branch until the mid-90s, when it was renovated into a retail space. The lease just hit the market a few weeks ago, so we'll keep an eye out for who might move in in the future.
· The gateway to the Castro [Colliers]
· Rumor Mill: New Apple Store Coming To Market & Castro Streets [SFist]
· No Coop for Randy Rooster [Curbed SF]
· The Real Life "George Bailey" Who Founded Bank of Italy which Became Bank of America [TIFO]
· A.P. Giannini [PBS]