NoMad Los Angeles | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Jim Simmons. Courtesy KFA Architecture.

NoMad Los Angeles

NoMad Los Angeles stands at the busy corner of Olive and Seventh Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Originally the headquarters of the Bank of Italy (later Bank of America), a Los Angeles Times article dated March 16, 1923 declared, “A new gem is added today to Los Angeles’ architectural crown.”

Amadeo P. Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in 1904. The bank provided services to previously underserved populations, including small depositors, borrowers, and female customers. Its model of statewide branch-banking was highly successful, quickly making it the largest commercial bank in the western United States. When Giannini relocated the bank’s headquarters from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it was a clear sign that L.A. had arrived as a booming metropolis for business and banking.

When the new Bank of Italy headquarters opened, it featured the latest state-of-the-art technologies, including the ability to cash checks, make deposits, and withdraw money from the same teller window – a new system of banking that was pioneered in the West. At the time of its opening, the bank was surrounded by a bustling commercial and entertainment district full of shops, department stores, offices, and theatres.

As the years went on, tenancy fell in the downtown neighborhood, and the former Bank of Italy building, like many other downtown buildings, sat vacant and neglected. In 2010, the building was listed on Los Angeles Downtown News’ 2010 list of “Downtown’s 10 Worst Eyesores” due to its broken windows and boarded-up, graffiti-covered exterior. By the time the current owner purchased the building in 2014, it had been vacant for the better part of a decade, and its former grandeur was hardly evident.

The project team set to work, repairing and cleaning the original Beaux Arts details covering the building’s exterior. Working from archival photographs and drawings, the team recreated the two-story steel windows and their decorative grates, which had disappeared some time before 1941, and reinstalled them along the ground floor and mezzanine levels.

Much of the interior of the building was gutted over the years, but the project team worked to return it to its former glory, saving the historic details that remained. They restored the coffered ceilings of the main lobby and elevator lobby, as well as the lobby’s Corinthian capitals and original marble floor. They replicated, cast, and reinstalled decorative iron railings, helping to maintain the building’s historic character while meeting current building code requirements.

In the basement, the bank vault that was once home to 12,000 safe deposit boxes and its fifty-ton circular bronze vault door remained. The vault was converted into a public restroom, and its beautifully restored door signals the building’s past. Upper floors had been stripped bare in anticipation of building improvements that had never manifested. When the current owner decided to convert the twelve-story building into a hotel, those improvements finally came in the form of upgrading the ventilation and elevator systems.

Today, this former bank, which played a noteworthy role in downtown L.A.’s history, is home to a five star hotel with public amenities such as a coffee shop on the ground floor, a comfortable lobby, a mezzanine-level bar and restaurant, and a rooftop pool. Today, whether you’re meeting a friend in the lobby or checking out the view from the roof, the building provides you with the opportunity to appreciate both L.A.’s past and its present. 

NoMad Los Angeles received a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2020.

Photo by Michael Locke

Vista Theatre

Located on Sunset Drive where Sunset Boulevard becomes Hollywood Boulevard, the Vista Theatre was originally known as the Lou Bard Playhouse or Bard's Hollywood. The theatre, designed by noted theatre architect Lewis A. Smith, is a unique combination of decorative styles - a Spanish Colonial Revival exterior and an Egyptian-themed interior.