Isla Vista is infamous for burning down its Bank of America during a riot on February 25, 1970, and for the death of a student (Kevin Moran) during a subsequent riot on April 18 that year, who got shot while trying to help put out a fire started at the temporary bank structure. Those are the stories that get mentioned, maybe with a few black-and-white photos of the burned-out bank and crowds and smoke, in articles like this one.
But what did the building look like before? Maybe seeing photos of the bank as an ordinary building in IV can help us understand how it felt to be there when it was burning. And what happened after?
Small original building
The original Bank of America in IV for a few years was a small building that still stands. It opened in February 1963 and moved to the new building in June 1967. This old building was the St. Athanasius Orthodox Church for a long time and is now becoming an IV community center building.
Big second building
It's hard to find photos of what the big building looked like before it burned down, so here are a few of them.
This one is looking down Madrid Road toward campus, with Storke Tower on the left in the distance. The field to the left and most of the road in the middle are now part of Anisq'Oyo' Park (which was originally called Madrid Park because of the road through it). The building corner in the center is now Woodstock's, and to the right of that corner is Borsodi's Coffeehouse.
The thing that happened
There are several photos here of what it looked like after it burned.
There is a small exhibit of photos inside Embarcadero Hall about the riots.
There is a whole book about the riots (and post-riot response), a bunch about them in another book, and lots of other writing available! Some places to start:
- Don't Bank on Amerika materials by Malcolm Gault-Williams: blog, website, book's first chapter
- Isla Vista: A Citizen's History by Carmen Lodise: website, book, book's fourth chapter
- When Amerika Burned By The Sea: The Isla Vista Riots: documentary
The UCSB/IV Walking Tour summarizes it like this: "The first Bank of America building here was burned to the ground on Feb. 25/26, 1970 in a riot known as `I.V. I’. The causes of the riot are complex and the subject of many studies."
Third building: after the burning, the temporary structure
The Bank of America quickly constructed a temporary structure.
Also from the UCSB/IV Walking Tour: "A second riot (I.V. II) occurred on April 17/18, 1970, when one of a group of students that stopped the burning of a temporary Bank of America structure, Kevin Moran (memorialized by a sidewalk plaque), was accidently shot to death by a Santa Barbara City policeman, David Gosselin. The Bank of America at UC Irvine was burned down by unknown parties 8 months to the day after the first IV burning, on Oct. 26, 1970."
After the temporary structure, the fourth and current building
Bank of America constructed a solid new building and used it as a branch until about 1982. The UCSB/IV Walking Tour continues: "Some say the bunker-like rebuilt structure now housing Embarcadero Hall was based on a design used by Bank of America for their Saigon, Vietnam branch, intended to survive in a war zone. The structure housed various nightclubs starting in the 1980s, and was the site of an altercation between Sheriff’s Deputies and African-American students in 1991. UCSB has used the structure since 2002, and live theatrical performances now take place on Friday nights. UCSB apparently uses the old vault to store valuable art."
There's confirmation of the vault story on the website of the architectural firm that worked on the renovation: "The previous vault space was converted into the art department’s storage area for their valuable collections."
A long-time resident who worked there as a teller in the early 80s said that on Fridays there would be a long line of people to take out a bit of cash for the weekend. Each shift had several men and women tellers, mostly young people who were students or recently graduated, and they all had a silent implied agreement that they would arrange for the next person in line to end up at a teller of the opposite gender, just for fun and potential flirting. He said he got lots of dates that way, especially since he had some particularly stylish ties for his bank employee outfit.
Bank of America shut down this branch as ATMs and other automated services reduced the need for branches. UCSB bought it to use as a lecture hall and named it Embarcadero Hall.