AKA: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Pacific Coast Head Office Building, San Francisco, CA; Ritz-Carlton Hotel, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - corporate headquarters; built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - commercial buildings - stores

Designers: Le Brun, Napoleon, and Sons, Architects (firm); Miller, James Rupert, Architect (firm); Michel Moracin Le Brun (architect); Napoleon Eugene Charles Henry Le Brun (architect); Pierre L. Le Brun (architect); James Rupert Miller (architect); Timothy Ludwig Pflueger (architect)

Dates: constructed 1908-1909

9 stories

600 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

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The New York architecture firm of Napoleon LeBrun and Sons had done other buildings for the fast-growing Metropolitan Life Insurance Company before this one in San Francisco, CA. The firm initially built a well-known skyscraper headquarters for the company in New York, NY, in 1890-1893, and a second, taller tower (based on the Campanile di San Marco, Venice, Italy, [1514]) in 1909. Napoleon Eugene Henry Charles Le Brun (1821-1901) opened his first architectural office in Philadelphia, PA, c. 1843, before transplanting his base of operations to the bustling New York, NY, after 1865. He brought his two sons, Pierre L.(1846-1924) and Michel Moracin (1857-1913) into the business in 1880 and 1888 respectively. For this impressive West Coast headquarters building, Pierre and Michel worked with a local architect, James Rupert Miller (1869-1946). This was one of the only commissions (if not the only) completed by Napoleon LeBrun and Sons on the West Coast.

The building's original portion formed a rectangle, the long side paralleling 80 feet of Stockton Street. The front facade had a composition divided into five bays, a central pediment, two end bays and two connecting bays with colonnades of engaged Ionic columns. Like the facades of most large financial institutions of the era, the Metropolitan Life Building featured a prominent pedimented portico, a potent architectural symbol suggesting timeless stability, authority and wealth.

James Rupert Miller's firm supervised the construction of two wings, each 28 feet long, that extended down California Street on the north and Pine Street on the south. The U-shaped building stepped down a steep hill, with the central Stockton Street section at the highest point. Both wings on California Street and Pine Street contained more stories as the hill steeply descended. This first addition, containing added offices, a rooftop garden and dining room, was made in 1913-1914, concurrently with work on the City of San Francisco's Stockton Street Tunnel (completed on 12/29/1914). Another large addition of offices in 1919-1920, also handled by Miller's firm, had a young Timothy Pflueger (1892-1946) supervising the job. More recent additions have piled additional stories onto all three main parts of the building.

San Francisco Historic Landmark: 167

PCAD id: 17756