Banco Popular de Puerto Rico | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo from Conservancy archives

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

This elegant, eight-story building of granite, glazed brick, and terra cotta is designed in the Beaux Arts style.  Built in 1903 and designed by architect Alfred Foist Rosenheim, the building was commissioned by Hermann W. Hellman, a merchant and banker who emigrated to Los Angeles from Bavaria.

Hellman financed the building at the cost of $1.5 million, the largest individual investment for an office building in Los Angeles at the time.  The ornamental cartouches on the building’s façade proudly display the owner's initials, "HWH," a motif that is repeated inside. The lobby is primarily white marble, with a massive, geometrically detailed stairway. 

The stained glass oval dome and skylights – the building's hallmark – have been fully restored, stripped of the layers of paint that had hidden them since the blackouts of World War II. 

The dome is lit with natural sunlight from the central light well, which rises up through the center of the building. After years of decline in the 1960s and '70s, the building was acquired and renovated by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico in 1976, the first major step in the revitalization of Spring Street.  The purchase and renovation cost $4 million, close to three times the building's original cost. In 2012, the building was purchased by developer Alan Gross, who intends to convert it into rental apartments. It was the long-time home of the now defunct state-funded Community Redevelopment Agency.

Photo by Alex Alvarez, Rockefeller Kempel Architects and Tara Wujcik, Tara Wujcik Photography

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