Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Curlett and Eisen, Architects (firm); William F. Curlett (architect); Theodore Augustus Eisen (architect)

Dates: constructed 1889-1890

217 South Broadway
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Building History

The early lumberman and teamster John M. Griffith (1829-1906), born in Baltimore, MD, commissioned the construction of the Potomac Building in Los Angeles, CA. The publication, Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest: Illustrated (1904) stated of him: "In [1869], John M. Griffith, who was engaged in the lumber business and in freighting from San Pedro to Los Angeles, built the first really modern house in Los Angeles. It stood on Fort Street, now Broadway, where the Potomac building is now. When this latter building was erected by Griffith, the house was moved back on Hill street and again was remodeled during the past year into a Presbyterian church." (See George Ward Burton,Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest: Illustrated. A Story of Pioneer Struggles during Early Days in Los Angeles and Southern California, [Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times, 1904], p. 18.) Born in Baltimore, MD, Griffith migrated first to Vancouver, WA in 1852, and then to Sacramento by 1857. In the latter city, he worked as a teamster for the Calfiornia Navigation Company. In Sacramento, he married his wife, Sarah A. Tomlinson, who was the sister of John J. Tomlinson, who operated a freighting business that moved goods from the port of San Pedro to Los Angeles during the 1860s. The firm of Tomlinson and Company battled with Banning and Company for the lion's share of freighting between the two cities before the construction of a rail connection between the port and city in 1869.

In addition to freight carrying, Tomlinson and Griffith also operated a lumber business in Los Angeles, that would be operated primarily by Griffith. Tomlinson and Griffith owned one of the first lumber yards in the city, both men deriving significant wealth supplying wood to a growing city. Griffith put some of his money in real estate, building this office building on South Broadway, giving it the name of a river that he had known as a youth in MD.

Building Notes

John M. Griffith was one of the founders of the Society of Los Angeles County Pioneers.

PCAD id: 21395