AKA: 400 California Street Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA; Union Bank, Headquarters Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - banks (buildings)

Designers: Bliss and Faville, Architects (firm); Walter Danforth Bliss (architect); William Baker Faville (architect); Hart Wood (architect)

Dates: constructed 1907-1908

3 stories

400 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94104-1302

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According to the architectural historians Don Hibbard, Glenn E. Mason, Karen J. Weitze in their book, Hart Wood: architectural regionalism in Hawaii, wrote of the Bank of California Headquarters Building #2: "In 1906, Bliss and Faville undertook the commission for the Bank of California in San Francisco. Architectural Record carried a presentation drawing of the bank in June, discussing the similarity of its design to McKim, Mead and White's Knickerbocker Trust Company building erected in New York in 1904. Hart [Wood] subsequently listed this project as the earliest commission among a group of Bliss and Faville designs he claimed as chiefly his own work. The drawing may be from Wood's hand, but if so it exhibits a style far different from that evident in the architect's signed work of just several years later. Regardless, the architect likely did have a major role in the bank's design." (See Don Hibbard, Glenn E. Mason, Karen J. Weitze, Hart Wood: architectural regionalism in Hawaii, [Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010,]. p. 17.) Stanford White's Knickerbocker Trust Building (1902-1904) had a templar character, and was originally designed to have a nine-story office tower added later. The Knickerbocker Trust Company would play a disastrous role in a scheme to corner the copper market that led, in part, to the Financial Panic of 1907.

Compared to the previous Bank of California on this site (demolished in the wake of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906) this temple of finance had a decidedly Beaux-Arts Classical appearance. It featured colossal engaged columns, each fluted and capped by rich Corinthian columns. When an addition was made next door in the late 1960s, the architects echoed the fluting by incising lines in the concrete facade between each story of ribbon windows.

San Francisco-based Anshen and Allen, Architects, designed a undistinguished, 22-story addition for the Bank of California at 400 California Street to adjoin the low-rise, 1908 building. In 04/1996, the Union Bank merged with the Bank of California to form a new holding company UnionBanCal Corporation, that owned the new Union Bank of California, N.A. In 2011, the Union Bank also owned the California Building located across the street at 350 California Street.

San Francisco Historic Landmark (1968-09-03): 3

PCAD id: 986