AKA: Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company of California, Headquarters Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; PacMutual Building, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Dodd and Richards, Architects (firm); Parkinson and Bergstrom, Architects (firm); Richards-Neustadt Construction Company (firm); Twaits, Ford J., Construction Company (firm); George Edwin Bergstrom (architect); William James Dodd (architect); Neustadt (building contractor); John Parkinson (architect); Richards (building contractor); William Richards (architect/engineer)

Dates: constructed 1907-1908

5 stories

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523 West 6th Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90014-1217

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Begun by the architectural firm of Parkinson and Bergstrom, the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company's headquarters building in Downtown Los Angeles would grow substantially through additions over 20+ years. Gradual acquisition of real estate on this block and subsequent construction on it yielded about $13 million in value by 1929. (See "Downtown Construction Hits Rapid Pace,"Los Angeles Times, 10/06/1929, p. D1.)

Building History

The Los Angeles architectural firm of Parkinson and Bergstrom prepared plans for the first unit of the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company Building in 02/1908. This first phase was located on the northwest corner of 6th Street and Olive Street.

Pacific Mutual abandoned this Downtown Los Angeles office and moved its corporate headquarters to Newport Beach, CA.

Building Notes

The Engineering News reported in its "Buildings" section of a new construction contract awarded to the Richards-Neustadt Construction Compan of San Francisco: "The Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co., Braley Bldg., will erect a building at the corner of Sixth and Olive Sts. The plans are by Parkinson & Bergstrom, Archs,. and the contract for erection has been awarded to the Richards-Neustadt Construction Company, Monadnock Block, San Francisco. The estimated cost of the structure is about $250,000. The building will be five stories high and will cover a ground space of 60 x 100 ft. It will be built on a steel frame, with concrete floors, brick exterior walls, and will be faced with terra-cotta and dull glazed pressed brick. The exterior will be ornamented with columns, five feet in diameter, and rising to a height of 80 ft. The columns, caps and cornice will be of terra-cotta. Composition material will be used for roofing. Granite will be used for base blocks. There will be two passenger elevators. J. A. Ferguson is Local Mgr." (See "Buildings," Engineering News, vol. 59 no. 5, 01/30/1908, p. 32.)


The company added on to its original block during 1911-1912, to nearly double the building's length.

A 12-story addition was made to the Pacific Mutual Building at 6th Street and Grand Avenue in 1920-1921 by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Dodd and Richards.

In 1926, another addition was made, a three-story parking garage and office building. According to the LA Conservancy, "The third structure is a two-story parking garage from 1926, with offices and meeting rooms on the top floor. Then, as now, its function was disguised in a charming Beaux Arts exterior with a cordova tile roof."

Designed by John and Donald Parkinson, a six-story, $350,000 addition to the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company building was completed in 10/1929. The frame of this addition, was completed welded on site, rather than riveted. TheLos Angeles Times stated: "Although not representing as huge an investment as the other buildings under construction, the $350,000 structure has focused the attention of the building industry upon itself by being the first all-welded-in-the-field steel frame structure in the West. Decision to use the silent method of steel erection was made after it became apparent that the noise of riveting would prove a serious disturbance to workers in near-by offices. It was erected in a space that had served as a light court, surrounded on three sides by offices. The building, designed by John and Donald Parkinson, architects, conforms in exterior trim with the present structures." (See "Downtown Construction Hits Rapid Pace,"Los Angeles Times, 10/06/1929, p. D1.)

Ten years later, Parkinson and Parkinson, Architects, redesigned the building in the Streamline Moderne style, replacing earlier Classical ornamentation on the building's facade. The Conservancy noted: "The extent of structural changes required a new exterior design, which was executed in a plain monumental Moderne style popular at the time."

The Los Angeles Times reported on 07/14/1957: "Pacific Mutual Building, 523 W 6th St., is installing air conditioning at a cost of $1,250,000. It is believed to be largest air-conditioning system ever installed in an existing building in the West. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year." (See "L.A. Downtown Improvement Projects Grow," Los Angeles Times, 07/14/1957, p. F8.)

Wendell Mounce and Associates, along with the firm of Bond and Steward, supervised renovations to the Pacific Mutual Building #1 in 1974 returning its appearance closer to its original Beaux-Arts styling.

Another building-wide renovation happened in 1985 undertaken by Westgroup, Incorporated. (See Water and Power Associates, Early Los Angeles City Views (1925 +), accessed 09/03/2015.)

Los Angeles City Historical-Cultural Monument (1988-11-23): 398

PCAD id: 6260