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Farmers and Merchants' original location in Los Angeles, 1876.

Farmers and Merchants Bank (F&M) is a historic lending institution in downtown Los Angeles, California, USA, known both for its architecture and its pivotal role in the economic development of early Los Angeles. Other, non-related "F&M Banks" exist in many cities and towns across the United States.

The Farmers and Merchants Bank was the first incorporated bank in Los Angeles, founded in 1871 by John G Downey, the seventh governor of California and Isaias W. Hellman, a successful merchant, real estate speculator and banker, and brother of Hermann W. Hellman. Downey was named the first president. Isaias later served as president of the bank till his death in 1920.

Farmers and Merchants National Bank of Los Angeles at 4th and Main - 1923

Contents

Architecture

Designed in the Classical Revival style, the Farmers and Merchants Bank remains one of Southern California's finest examples of the early "temples of finance" which were popular at the turn of the century. Its two-story facade, reminiscent of a Roman temple, is punctuated by an entrance framed with Corinthian columns topped by a large triangular pediment. Built in 1905, the bank was designed by the firm of Morgan and Walls.

History

The Farmer's and Merchants Bank was founded by 23 prominent Los Angeles businessmen, with an initial capital of $500,000. The three largest subscribers were Isaias W. Hellman ($100,000), former California Governor John G. Downey ($100,000), and Ozro W. Childs ($50,000) who in later years became the founders of the University of Southern California. Other investors included Charles Ducommun ($25,000), I.M. Hellman ($20,000) and Jose Mascarel ($10,000.)

I.W. Hellman, was a cautious lender, insisting that major borrowers have good character and provide good security. Its subsequent presidents, J.A. Graves (who had been Hellman's attorney) and Victor H. Rosetti, continued Hellman's conservative practices, with a large portion of the bank's capital constantly held in Treasury securities. As a result, the Bank survived every panic, from 1873 through the Great Depression. However, a one-branch downtown bank was eventually seen as not likely to continue to grow. In 1956, it merged with Security First National Bank, which became in later years Security Pacific National Bank, and ultimately was acquired by the Bank of America.

Modern-day

Farmers & Merchants Bank, 2008

The Farmers & Merchants Bank building has been established as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #271.

Much of the original banking room remains, including light fixtures, a central skylight, and the loggia with its Victorian-style railings. Operating as a bank until its closure in the late 80s, the building now functions primarily as a special events and banquet facility, and film location. The building is slated for renovation by developer Tom Gilmore and Associates.

References

  • Isaias W. Hellman and the Farmers and Merchants Bank, by Robert Glass Cleland and Frank B. Putnam (The Huntington Library, San Marino (1965)
  • "Guide Français de Los Angeles et du Sud de la Californie", published in 1932 by F. Loyer et C. Beaudreau
  • 1872 Los Angeles City and County Directory

External links

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