AKA: Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, Headquarters Building #1, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Farmers and Merchants National Bank of Los Angeles, Headquarters Building #1, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - banks (buildings); built works - commercial buildings - corporate headquarters

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1868

2 stories

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North Main Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

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The last Mexican Governor of Alta California, Pio Pico, who served from 1845 to 1846, remained in Los Angeles, CA, and built this commercial block in 1868, nearby to the Bella Union Hotel, a main early social center. In 1871, merchant Isaias W. Hellman and associates established the Farmers and Merchants National Bank in Pico's three-year-old building. This bank would become a crucial lender for various basic businesses established in the city.

Building History

This section of North Main Street (including the 300 and 400 blocks) operated during the 1850s-1870s as the most important commercial and social center of sleepy town of Los Angeles. It contained crucial ingredients for a growing community, including a reliable bank, a respectable hotel with large meeting spaces, and other space for communication (telegraph) and transportation (stage coach) businesses. The web site Water and Power Associates wrote of this 300 block of North Main Street: "The 300 block of North Main Street was an important part of Los Angeles history as early as the mid-1800s. It was considered the uptown commercial heart of the old city and was always buzzing with activity. Built there was Los Angeles’ first hotel, the Bella Union, which was long a social and political center. The first county courthouse was in the adobe hotel, where court was held in rented rooms from 1850 to 1852. Beginning in 1858, it was the region's transportation hub. The Overland Mail Company operated by John Butterfield (the founder of American Express) rented space for a station. The Wells, Fargo and Company also had their office here and Phineas Banning operated coaches to Wilmington and San Bernardino from the hotel." (See Water and Power Associates.org, "Early Views of N. Main St. (300 block)," accessed 01/25/2018.)

In 1887, Isaias W. Hellman served as President, L.C. Goodwin, Vice-President and John Milner, Secretary, of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles; the Board of Directors consisted of: Isaias W. Hellman, O.W. Childs. Phil Garnier, C. Ducommun, John S. Griffith, C.E. Thom, J.B. Lankershim and Jose Mascar. It advertised $200,000 of working capital and a surplus and reserve fund of $500,000 05/28/1887.

Building Notes

This early bank stood two stories tall in 1875, and appears to have had eight cast iron columns supporting the first-floor storefront. Three second-floor windows were tall, thin double-hung openings, topped by trabeated cornices. Quoins decorated the vertical edges of the front facade. A cornice was supported by a tight grouping of brackets, above which stood a balustrade broken in the center by a pediment. A sign in the pediment read, "Bank Los Angeles." Finials on both ends punctuated the balustrade.

Isaias W. Hellman (10/03/1842-04/09/1920), a Bavarian-Jewish dry goods migrated to Los Angeles in 03/1859. Hellman operated as a successful dry goods merchant beginning in 04/1865 and branched into banking when he opened the Farmers and Merchants National Bank first location on 04/10/1871. He remained head of the bank for 44 years. The first headquarters had a false brick front and 3 stories. Windows had shallow Italianate arches and a balcony stretched in front of the second story.

PCAD id: 12448