AKA: Merchants' Exchange Building #3, Financial District, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Burnham, Daniel H., and Company, Architects (firm); Morgan, Julia H., Architect (firm); Daniel Hudson Burnham (architect); Julia H. Morgan (architect); Willis Jefferson Polk (architect)

Dates: constructed 1903

17 stories, total floor area: 265,363 sq. ft.

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465 California Street
Financial District, San Francisco, CA 94104

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The Merchants Exchange Building also had the street address 75 Leidesdorff Street.


The Chicago architectural firm, D.H. Burnham and Company, designed this high-rise, steel-frame office building, one of the very few tall towers to withstand the 04/18/1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Burnham employed a young and exuberant architect, Willis J. Polk, as its lead architect. The Merchants Exchange Building #3 rapidly became a prime locus for business activity in the city, with both the influential Commercial Club and the Chamber of Commerce locating their offices there.


San Francisco business leaders selected D.H. Burnham and Company of Chicago, IL, to design the Merchants Exchange Building #3 in 1903. Chicago architect Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912), whose fame expanded dramatically following the 1893 Columbian Exposition of which he served as Chief of Construction, worked with a local employee, Willis J. Polk (1867-1924), to complete the design and supervise the exchange's construction. In years following its completion, the Merchants Exchange Building #3 became a nexus for business leaders not only in San Francisco, but from acroess the West. The stoutly constructed building withstood the Earthquake and Fire of 04/18/1906. According to a history published by the building's ownership in 2016: "Upon completion of repairs, the building provided water and power to neighbors during their reconstruction. Thus, after the disaster, the Merchants Exchange came to serve as both a symbol of hope and a practical example of the City's remarkable rebirth." (See Merchants Exchange Building, "History," accessed 07/12/2016.)

The former political consultant turned real estate investor Clint Reilly purchased the Merchants Exchange Building #3 for $17,5 million on 05/31/1995. It seems appropriate that someone saavy in political influence would buy one of the city's most historically important centers for commerce and policy-making. The building had an assessed value of $24,458,382 in 2016, of which the land was worth $12,578,597.

Building Notes

In 1907, the state's first female architect, Julia H. Morgan (1872-1957), took a lease on 13th floor offices in the Merchants Exchange Building #3. Morgan remained here for the balance of her career, lasting into the 1950s. She undertook work on the building over the years. Historian Mark Anthony Wilson reviewed her contributions to the building's design: "Julia Morgan was involved in the remodeling of the building's interior after the earthquake. Her work can still be found in the bronze eagles and Beaux-Arts lamps on the exterior. She also suggested hiring the renowned painted William Coulter to paint a series of murals depicting ships on the walls of the great hall, or meeting room. The marble Ionic columns, coffered ceiling and vaulted skylights were her design." (See Mark Anthony Wilson, Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty, [Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2007], p. 15.)

In 1913, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce had its offices in the Merchants Exchange Building #3, Room #1304. W.T. Sesnon was the President, G.C. Boardman was the Secretary at the time. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1913, p. 1580.)

The shipping executive, banker, and highly influential politician James Rolph (1869-1934), known as "Sunny Jim," served as President of the Commercial Club of San Francisco in 1906. Rolph would serve as the city's long-time mayor from 1912-1931 and Governor of CA from 1931 until his death in 1934. The Commercial Club of San Francisco had its meeting rooms on the top floor of the Merchants Exchange Building #3 in 1915. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1915, p. 1675.)

As a gathering place for the city's most influential businessmen, the Merchants Exchange Building #3 gained a reputation as an important fund-raising site. A history of the tower posted by its owners said: "When San Francisco wanted to show the world its restored glory with the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, $4 million ($70 million in today's money) was required to pay for it. City business leaders held a black-tie fundraiser at the Merchants Exchange and raised the entire amount in less than two hours." (See Merchants Exchange Building, "History," accessed 07/12/2016.)

In 1918, Warren Olney (1841-1921), an influential lawyer, Mayor of Oakland (1903-1905) and co-founder of the Sierra Club, made his offices in the Merchants Exchange Building #3. At that time, Olney was also Chairman of the Northern District Board, Division #1, for Selective Service in the State of CA.

In 1927, lawyer Percy V. Long (1870-1953) co-founded the firm of Long and Levit, with offices in the Merchants Exchange Building #3. Long had served as San Francisco's elected City Attorney during two periods, 1902-1906 and 1908-1916.

IN 2016, the Merchants Exchange Building #3 contained 25 bathrooms.


While the Merchants Exchange Building #3 withstood the Great Earthquake of 1906, it sustained significant damage on the interior and exterior that was repaired in the years following. Some of this renovation work was overseen by Julia Morgan.

San Francisco County Assessor Number: 0260015

PCAD id: 18893