AKA: Kerckhoff Block, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Santa Fe Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Morgan and Walls, Architects (firm); Octavius Morgan (architect); John A. Walls (architect)

Dates: constructed 1907-1908

10 stories

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560 South Main Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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IN-born businessman William G. Kerckhoff, migrated to Los Angeles before the period of frenzied real estate speculation and construction of the early 1880s; having made a significant fortune in supplying lumber for this construction, Kerckhoff moved into other lucrative areas, including banking and real estate investment. He financed the erection of this 10-story (plus basement) office tower at 560 South Main Street from architects Morgan and Walls. His lumber company, the Kerckhoff-Cuzner Mill and Lumber Company, maintained its headquarters in Rooms 201-207 of the Kerckhoff Building in 1913,

Building History

Lumber merchant and utility mogul William George Kerckhoff (1856-1929) migrated to Los Angeles from Terre Haute, IN, in the autumn of 1878. In Terre Haute, he established a wholesale business selling saddles and hardware. Having traveled in CA as a youth, Kerckhoff saw the state as a filled with financial possibilities. Additionally, many from the State of IN were moving to the Pasadena area at the time, establishing its commercial backbone. He and his father chose to invest in an existing lumber business, the J.G. Jackson Lumber Company. A year after arriving in Los Angeles, he established the Jackson, Kerckhoff and Cuzner Company with J.G. Jackson and James Cuzner, which was reconstituted in 1883 as the Kerckhoff-Cuzner Mill and Lumber Company. According to his biography in Los Angeles from the Mountains to the Sea: with Selected Biography of Actors and Witnesses to the Period of Growth and Achievement (1921), "[The Kerckhoff-Cuzner Mill and Lumber Company] is one of the largest enterprises of California, having been built up through a period of years a chain of yards and docks along the Southern coast, owning a fleet of lumber vessels and carrying an immense amount of lumber and timber products from the Northwestern states to Los Angeles harbor." (See John Steven McGroarty, Los Angeles from the Mountains to the Sea: with Selected Biography of Actors and Witnesses to the Period of Growth and Achievement, [Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921], p. 34.) The Huntington Library, which owns the papers of the Kerckhoff-Cuzner Mill and Lumber Company, said of the company's growth: "As business grew they acquired branch yards in Pasadena, Pomona, Lamanda Park, San Fernando, Hollywood, Brawley, Calexico, Imperial, and also purchased Boschke's Island or Smith's Island, as it was also know [sic], in San Pedro and established a wholesale mill and lumber yard there." San Pedro would become Los Angeles's largest port.

Kerckhoff's firm profited handsomely from Los Angeles's meteoric growth during the 1880s, and, following the burst of the Los Angeles real estate bubble in 1887, Kerckhoff began branching out to owning stock in various utilities, including the San Gabriel Electric Company, San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation, Southern California Gas Company, Pacific Light and Power Company, Midland Gas Company, Midland Counties Public Service Corporation, and San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. As many wealthy men of the time did, Kerckhoff also diversified his money into banking and real estate investments; he had interests in the Farmers and Merchants National Bank and the First National Bank of Kerman, as well as real estate interests in the Fresno Farms Company and South Coast Land Company.

He commissioned the Los Angeles architectural firm of Morgan and Walls, pioneer designers of high rise office buildings in the city, to erect this $350,000 building whose rectangular base measured 60 x 145 feet, and was sited on the northeast corner of Main and 6th Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Writer Oswald Speir highlighted the ten-floor office tower's cream white matte enamel terra cotta skin in his article, "The Development of Architetural Terra Cotta on the Pacific Coast," in 1912. (see Oswald Speir, "The Development of Architetural Terra Cotta on the Pacific Coast," Architect and Engineer, vol. XXX, no. 2, 09/1912, p. 51.) The building was first listed in the Los Angeles City Directory, 1908, (p. 786).

Building Notes

In 1919, the architects Jeffery and Schaefer had their offices in room 1106 in the Kerckhoff Building.

The Santa Fe Railroad Company had its main offices in the Kerckhoff Building in 1922. (See "The Pacific Coast," Iron Age, vol. 109, no. 24, 06/15/1922, p. 1726.)

PCAD id: 13607