AKA: Continental Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Hibernian Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Gilmore Associates (firm); Parkinson, John, Architect (firm); Thomas J. Gilmore (architect/developer); John Parkinson (architect)

Dates: constructed 1903-1904

12 stories

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408 South Spring Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90013-2023

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The Braly Building was erected on the southeast corner of South Spring Street and West 4th Street.


The Braly Building typified an up-to-date American office tower of the period between 1900 and 1915, built in rapidly-expanding downtowns with escalating property values. Typically, towers like this were relatively slender, with two sides of the rectangle significantly narrower than the long entry side, reflecting cramped city lots and high land prices. This tall and thin building, like the contemporary Borland Building in Chicago, (1906), by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, utilized Italian palazzo models with their clearly articulated bases, shafts and capitals/cornices, but significantly stretched the shaft portion of the composition to maximize rentable office space. The buildings shared rusticated ground floor retail spaces, prominent courses demarcating tripartite sections, and arched openings used to terminate the shafts just below their elaborate cornices. The buildings utilized an antique Renaissance building shellupdated with the latest technologies to suit contemporary business requirements of 1905.

Building History

This 12-story, 175-foot office tower was the tallest office building on the Los Angeles skyline from its construction in 1902 until 1907. It was erected for a syndicate led by John Hyde Braly (1835-1923), an early settler to the Gold Country of Northern California, who had worked for some time as a teacher in the Santa Clara Valley (now known as Silicon Valley), and migrated to Los Angeles in 1891, where he earned his living as a banker. The Braly Block had the reputation as being one of the most technologically-advanced office buildings in the city, employing an insulated steel frame. It also had an advanced heating plant, a Paul vacuum steam heating system.

The Braly Block was also known as the "Union Trust Building," c. 1910.

Building Notes

When this building was erected in 1904, the Braly Block stood in the midst of Los Angeles's FInancial District. Almost all of the city's big banks occupied properties on Broadway and Spring Street, between 1st and 5th Streets. At the intersection of Spring and 4th Streets, H.W. Hellman's Security Savings Bank stood on the northeast corner kitty corner from the Southern California Savings Bank location in the Braly Building on the southeast corner. From at least 1903 until 1914, a large bank occupied prime retail space in the Braly Block.

The Architect and Engineer noted that Los Angeles architect Walter I. Webber (1864-1943) operated his office in Room #1017 in the Hibernian Building, before 11/1919. (See "Personal," Architect and Engineer, vol. LIX, no. 3, p. 113.)

In 1905, the Pacific Mutual Insurance Company, Southern California Branch, had its offices in Rooms #503-504 of the Braly Block. Edmund L. Chesney was the manager of this branch office. (See Los Angeles, California, City Directory, 1905, p. 1110.)


In c. 2002, Tom Gilmore rehabbed his empty office building into 56 apartments. Apartments on the twelfth floor included a penthouse, and all spaces had walk-up loft rooms. The Continental Building, along with the Hellman and San Fernando Buildings comprised a total of 230 live/work lofts owned by this enterprising landlord in what was called the Old Bank District of Downtown Los Angeles.

PCAD id: 4616