Bank of America Chinatown Branch
Designed by Gilbert Leong and Richard Layne Tom in the 1970s, this commercial building is significant for its architecture and connection to L.A.'s Chinese American community.
Through the efforts of the Conservancy, the Bank of America Chinatown Branch was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) in 2022.
The Bank of America Chinatown branch was designed by architects Gilbert Leong and Richard Layne Tom in 1971 with an addition in 1977. The building is significant for its unique blend of Asian Eclectic and Late Modern styles and for being the first national bank to open a branch in Chinatown, reflecting the growth of the local Chinese American community during the period.
About This Place
About This Place
The Bank of America Chinatown Branch is significant for its unique architectural design and as the first national bank to open in Chinatown.
Designed by architects Gilbert Leong and Richard Layne Tom, the bank’s design features Modernist horizontal orientation, minimal ornamentation, and flat roofs with “classical Chinese elements,” including a roof built from imported jade green tile over wood beams, modern Asian-beamed ceilings, and contemporary designs of Chinese characters. Leong and Tom’s design departs from the more common Early Modern Slab style used in other Bank of America branch designs.
In the 1970s and 80s, L.A.’s Chinatown was the geographic center of the Chinese American community, concentrating important cultural and commercial resources. Banking was an essential component of neighborhood growth, facilitating the development of new Chinese and Chinese American-owned businesses.
As the first national bank to open in Chinatown, the Bank of America Chinatown Branch solidified the increasing strength of the local Chinese American community.
By 1974, the bank was the fastest growing branch of Bank of America in Los Angeles. Over 250 credit cards were approved, which for many of the Chinese clients was the first time they had been approved for credit.
Identified in Survey LA’s Chinese Americans in Los Angeles historic context statement as an architecturally and culturally significant commercial building, the Conservancy featured the Bank of America Chinatown Branch building on our Special Tour, ‘Exploring Chinatown: Past and Present’ in 2016 and as part of our ’70s Turn 50′ initiative in 2020.
In 2021, the Conservancy successfully nominated the building for listing as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM).