Completed in 1927, the Board of Trade Building is eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion C as an excellent example of a Beaux Art style commercial building with Neoclassical influences, as well as for its association with the distinguished architecture firm ofCurlett and Beelman. The building is significant at the local level in the context of architecture. The unusual details, high quality materials, and exceptional craftsmanship make the building an outstanding example of Beaux Art architecture in Los Angeles. These characteristics also make the Board of Trade Building an important example of the architecture firm ofCurlett and Beelman.

The Board of Trade Building is named for the Los Angeles Wholesalers’ Board of Trade, an association of wholesalers. The building was named such because the Wholesalers entered into a long-term lease for the entire eighth floor prior to construction. The building was actually owned by the Seventh and Main Realty Company and managed by W. Ross Campbell, an attorney who moved to Los Angeles in the early twentieth century, and later pursued real estate development in the 1920s. In the late 1920s, the lower portion of the building also housed the California Stock Exchange operations. The other floors contained offices, and the known tenants included two architecture firms: William Kernan and Marcus Miller. The latter had been a draftsman to Curlett and Beelman before setting up his own office in the building.

The Board of Trade Building can be understood generally within the context of the Beaux Arts movement; specifically, the building represents the Neoclassical influence on the style. The term Beaux Arts refers to architectural design principles and teaching methods developed and perpetuated by the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the French school of fine arts located in Paris. Established after the French Revolution, the Ecole des Beaux Arts taught its architectural doctrines from 1819 to 1968. The school’s design principles were based on orderliness, symmetry, and the use of significant architectural styles.

The Ecole was the most prestigious training ground for American architects between the Civil War and World War 1. Richard Morris Hunt became the first American to attend the Ecole in 1846. Thereafter, many Americans studied there, and in turn trained other architects upon their return. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, with its magnificent collection of Beaux Arts buildings, is widely credited with popularizing the style in the United States.

The Beaux Arts style was viewed as most appropriate for civic and commercial architecture, and eventually became the style of choice for high-rise office buildings between 1910 and 1930. The typical Beaux Arts facade was organized into a composition based on the three-part division of an Italian palazzo or classical column: the articulated ground floor represented the base of a column; the middle stories, which could be stretched out to form a skyscraper, represented the shaft; and the upper section, usually elaborate and capped by an overhanging cornice, represented the capital.

The development of the commercial core of downtown Los Angeles directly coincided with the popularity of the Beaux Arts style in the United States. As such, downtown Los Angeles has one of the largest and finest concentrations of Beaux Arts buildings in the country outside of New York and Chicago. The Beaux Arts movement required a historical architectural inspiration, and sources in Los Angeles drew from a range of styles, including Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical models. All of the styles were somewhat compromised by stretching the details over as many as twelve stories; nevertheless, each Beaux Art building featured some manner of historical adornment. While Beaux Arts commercial buildings with an emphasis on arches and pressed brick would be more closely associated with Renaissance motifs, features such as columns, colonnades and large statues clearly tie the Board of Trade to the Neoclassical style.

Neoclassical architecture was first popularized in England and France in the eighteenth century. Generally, the movement aspired to embody the perceived superiority of art from Rome and Greece. Neoclassical design principles include the use of Greek and Roman orders and decorative motifs, geometric compositions and ornamental reliefs. The form of a temple was often incorporated in the design of Neoclassical buildings. Thomas Jefferson believed the aesthetic was the natural choice for the young United States because the Classical civilizations represented a civil and democratic ideal. While the style became popular for residential buildings (embodied in Jefferson ‘sown Monticello), Neoclassicism was also associated with larger commercial and civic buildings. Washington D.C. boasts the highest concentration in the United States of these large-scale Neoclassical buildings, including the Capital Building and associated office buildings, the White House, the Supreme Court, and other government buildings concentrated along the Mall.

Examples of Neoclassical buildings in Los Angeles include the typical temple forms of the style. The Second Church of Christ Scientist, the Farmers and Merchants Bank Building, and the Hollywood Masonic Temple, are the better examples of this type of Neoclasscial style. The two former buildings are fairly low-rise, and feature colossal pediments supported by columns with Corinthian capitals. The Hollywood Masonic Temple doesn’t feature a decorated pediment, but the symmetrical columns and recessed space are still reminiscent of a Classical temple. While these buildings represent more straightforward examples of the style, Neoclassical elements are also evident in Beaux Arts high-rise commercial buildings. Stretching the stylistic form of the building over twelve stories compromised the traditional temple form of the Neoclassical style. Such Beaux Arts high-rise commercial building typically feature a concentration of Neoclassical details at the very bottom and very top of a building, leaving the shaft of the building relatively plain.