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

Designers: Kaplan, McLaughlin and Diaz (KMD), Architects (firm); Kelham, George William, Architect (firm); Walker, P.J., and Company, Building Contractors (firm); James Diaz (architect); Ellis Kaplan (architect); George William Kelham (architect); Herbert P. McLaughlin Jr. (architect); Percival J. Walker Sr. (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1920-1924

8 stories

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400 Sansome Street
Financial District, San Francisco, CA 94111-3304

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The Federal Reserve Headquarters #1 occupied the northwest corner of Battery and Sacramento Streets.


The 12th District of the Federal Reserve System began use of this building, designed by noted San Francisco architect, George W. Kelham, in 1924 and left it in 1983, moving to new quarters at 101 Market Street. The 400 Sansome Street building was sold to private developers and renovated for commercial office use in the mid-1980s.

Building History

The Federal Reserve System's 12th District, headquartered in San Francisco, opened on 11/16/1914, located in a back portion of the Merchants' National Bank Building. When it opened, it had 23 employees, but, by 1920, had grown to employ 1,019 in San Francisco and its branches in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Spokane, Portland and Seattle. In order to house its growing San Francisco staff, the Federal Reserve obtained a 119-and-1/2-foot by 275-foot land parcel surrounded by Sansome, Sacramento, Battery and Commercial streets in 1918. "Located on this property was a six-story building, which the bank remodeled for temporary use and has occupied since September 28, 1918, the additional space required being leased in a neighboring building. Building plans were approved in the fall of 1919, but construction was at that time deferred in order not to aggravate a situation already difficult by reason of the acute shortage of labor and materials and inadequate transportation." (See "New Quarters of Federal Reserve Bank Being Built," Sacramento Union, 10/11/1920, p. 10.)

The need to begin building in 1920 became urgent. The Sacramento Union continued: "Since then the law was enacted providing for the transfer, not later than June 30, 1921, of all subtreasury operations to the Federal Reserve Bank. The need of additional facilities has become so pressing that preparation for immediate construction are now under way. All the buildings on the premises, except that now occupied by the bank, are being razed, and the piling of the ground will immediately follow so that the foundations may be completed prior to the arrival of steel, which has been contracted for delivery in November and December. The western part of the building will be first completed, after which the building now temporarily occupied will be razed and the eastern part of the new building erected." (See "New Quarters of Federal Reserve Bank Being Built," Sacramento Union, 10/11/1920, p. 10.)

San Francisco architect George W. Kelham (1871-1936), a favorite of corporate and large institutional clients throughout CA, provided this Beaux-Arts Revival, Classical design. Kelham had designed other high-profile banks before the Federal Reserve commission, beginning with the London-Paris National Bank of San Francisco in 1908. He went on to provide the Master Plan for San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915. Kelham also produced the first buildings at the new University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA), between 1926 and 1931. On San Francisco's Federal Reserve project, Kelham collaborated the P.J. Walker Construction Company, a leading building contractor in the State of CA during the 1910s and 1920s.

Building Notes

The Saint Louis, MO-born painter, Jules Guérin (11/18/1866 - 06/13/1946), produced murals in the Federal Reserve Building's lobby. Guérin was a leading academic painter and architectural renderer of his time, working for a variety of significant architects including Henry Bacon, Jr. (1866-1924), Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) and Burnham's successor firm in Chicago, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank's front facade featured two stacked colonnades; the lower portico had a group of three-story Ionic columns supporting an entablature, while the upper, contained a row of pilasters topped by Corinthian capitals. Aside from a row of eight eagles placed atop the portico and the parapet's antefix line, the building had a sober simplicity to its ornamentation, perhaps indicative of the economic austerity directly following the First World War.

The general contractor, P.J. Walker and Company, headquartered in San Francisco's Monadnock Building in 1922, obtained the commission to build the Federal Reserve Bank #1. Walker and Company worked with high-profile architects in San Francisco and Los Angeles during the 1920s, and worked again with Kelham on the Shell Oil Building later in the decade. The interior and exterior ornamental work was completed by California Artistic Metal and Wire Company of San Francisco; the bank's heating and ventilation contract went ot James A. Nelson of San Francisco.

As originally designed, the building had four floors with a high basement, "...although the foundations and steel will be such as to permit fourteen stories if hereafter required." Money transfer would occur in the basement vaults, accessible behind fortified gates from Battery Street. Kelham located the main entry off of Sansome Street leading into a grand lobby, which, in scale, dominated the adjacent and relatively small banking room. He placed administrative offices on the third floor. According to the press, "The building will be of monumental design and of extreme simplicity throughout." The Federal Reserve San Francisco Headquarters, in 10/1920, had an expected completion date in late 1921 or early 1922. (See "New Quarters of Federal Reserve Bank Being Built," Sacramento Union, 10/11/1920, p. 10.)


The Federal Reserve Building had four extra stories added to the original four.

Kaplan, McLaughlin and Diaz (KMD) renovated the Old Federal Reserve Bank in 1985 for use as an office building. Following the departure of the Federal Reserve, the building was sold to developers who leased space out to a law firm, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe. They occupied the building from 1983-2002. Boston Properties bought the building in 1998, and they sold it to the San Francisco-based Bently Holdings Corporation, a private asset holdings and management company, in 04/2005 for a substantial $46.8 million.

San Francisco Historic Landmark (1983): 158

National Register of Historic Places (July 31, 1989): 89000009 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 1356