At a meeting of the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission on Wed., Dec. 18, the former Farmers Insurance building at 4680 Wilshire, on the corner of Rimpau, was approved to be considered for Historic Cultural Monument status.
The application was submitted by the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society.
At the hearing, Laura Foti Cohen, representing the Historical Society, presented a PowerPoint noting the history of the building as well as the history of Farmers Insurance in the Wilshire district. The Commission unanimously approved a motion to move the landmarking process forward. It will be evaluated and voted on next year.
The building is part of a 10-acre parcel sold by Farmers earlier this year to CIM Group, which is moving their offices into another building in the parcel. The campus is located in the Brookside neighborhood and under the planning and development jurisdiction of the Park Mile Specific Plan that limits uses allowed by commercial buildings in the area.
When the property was purchased by the powerhouse developer CIM earlier this year, there was much concern voiced locally that CIM be held to the Park Mile ordinance that prohibits the building of hotels, schools, stores and health care facilities within the corridor (along Wilshire Blvd, from Wilton Blvd to Highland Ave.) CIM had originally proposed turning the historic Farmers tower into a high-end hotel and met with some neighborhood resistance. CIM has not met again with local neighborhood leaders since the initial meetings in the spring of 2014, and there is some concern locally about the plans for the property.
Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange was founded in Los Angeles in 1928 by WWI veterans John C. “Jack” Tyler and Thomas E. Leavey to provide cheaper insurance to lower-risk drivers, especially farmers and ranchers in the then-agricultural areas surrounding Los Angeles. As Farmers grew, the founders commissioned a new headquarters building designed by Walker & Eisen.
Walker & Eisen truly changed the Los Angeles skyline. The company designed more than 350 buildings, including: the Oviatt Building, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and, particularly relevant to this application, many houses in Windsor Square and Hancock Park directly adjacent to the building.
A number of Walker & Eisen buildings are already Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monuments.
The Farmers Insurance building is a classic of Moderne design. The Moderne Style (1930-1950) was influenced by industrial design, including the rise of the automobile – a direct tie to the automobile-fueled growth of both Farmers Insurance and Los Angeles. Moderne architecture features flat roofs, smooth wall surfaces, rounded corners, beveled windows and vertical orientation.
The Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society presented the Farmers Insurance headquarters with its prestigious Landmark Award #98 in 2009.