Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Reid Brothers, Architects (firm); James William Reid (architect); Merritt Jonathan Reid (architect); Millard Owen Sheets (architect)

Dates: constructed 1914-1915

9 stories

757 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014-2801

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map

The San Francisco-based architectural firm of the Reid Brothers designed the Merritt Building for the MN-born iron-ore, rail and steel magnate, Hullett Clinton Merritt, Sr., (1872-1956) who migrated to Southern CA by 1898. (Merritt was at one time the largest individual owner of U.S. Steel stock.) He assembled a substantial real estate portfolio downtown, particularly near Broadway, and around the region, and originally wanted to erect a much taller, 23-story edifice at this address. The City of Los Angeles rejected his application, requiring a lower height. He settled for a nine-story building, its first floor leased by retail businesses, while the upper eight contained offices. Merritt himself retained the top floor for his own usage. After his death in 1956, the rapidly growing savings and loan, Home Savings and Loan Association, bought the building, in part for its own use.

Standing nine floors high on the northwest corner of South Broadway and 8th Street, the Merritt Building had a notable Beaux-Arts Classical exterior, its floors separated by unusually prominent belt courses. Originally, the first floor had large windows suitable for its retail uses, although these were changed after the Home Savings & Loan Association bought the building in 1956. A second story featured prominent rustication, while a third had smooth masonry and deeply inset rectangular windows. Above this nondescript third floor, rose the building's most prominent decorative feature, a colossal colonnade of fluted, engaged columns with finely detailed Ionic capitals, rhythmically punctuating five floors of windows. An prominent cornice topped the composition. On the 8th Street facade a fire escape, trimmed by ornate metal railings, descended down the facade's center. In late 1919, the architectural firm of Taylor and Taylor moved from Office #605 to Suite #807 in the Merritt Building. (See "Personal," Architect and Engineer, vol. LX, no. 1, 01/1920, p. 113.) In 2012, the Los Angeles Downtown News selected the Merritt Building as an "...example of stately early Downtown architecture and a dead building. The property at Eighth Street and Broadway with the powerful columns is empty above the ground floor and is regularly scarred with graffiti." (See Gary Leonard, "Merritt Building," Los Angeles Downtown News, 12/03/2012,Accessed 07/08/2014.)

The Home Savings and Loan Association undertook significant "modernization" after it bought the skyscraper. It directed Millard Sheets (1907-1989), an artist with whom the savings and loan had worked on many branches across Southern CA, to remodel the building's lower floors. The rustication of the second floor was covered by smooth masonry, providing a modern appearance of clean geometry to pedestrians.

PCAD id: 4439