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82 Years Ago: A Grand Opening for Title Insurance and Trust's New H.Q. at 433 S. Spring

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, June 14, 2010, at 09:10AM
433 S. Spring Dick Whittington Studio / USC Digital Archives [digitallibrary.usc.edu]

This 1929 photo shows the then-new Title Insurance and Trust Company headquarters at 433 S. Spring.

On June 14, 1928, the Title Insurance and Trust Company opened the doors of its new headquarters at 433 S. Spring to the public, welcoming more than 10,000 visitors over the course of the day.

The company had made the short move just a few weeks earlier, relocating its 750 employees from what today we know as the Rowan Building at 5th and Spring.

Less than two years passed between the building's announcement and its opening. Company president William H. Allen, Jr., unveiled the plans on June 26, 1926. Parkinson & Parkinson were selected as the architects.

The skeleton of the building used 3500 tons of steel, and an L.A. Times story from April of 1927 made sure to note that it would all be fabricated in Los Angeles.

While LEED certification was far in the future, the building's design did include a rather scientific study of how to maximize use of natural light while minimizing heat and the need for air conditioning. Dr. Ford Carpenter, consulting meteorologist for the Chamber of Commerce, built a scale model of the design and placed it on the site, photographing it at different times of the day. Miniature cardboard silhouettes were used to determine how shadows from neighboring buildings would impact the site. Different glass types were also tested to determine what would allow in the most light while keeping out heat.

In November of 1952, the Title Insurance company purchased the 1928 Metropolitan Garage at 417 S. Spring. The firm converted the structure from parking to office, adding 178,000 square feet of office space.

The firm was one of the last financial companies to leave Spring Street, announcing its intention to depart on December 30, 1975. The "deterioration of the neighborhood" was cited by a company executive in a Times story.

The decades since have seen grand plans for the massive structure. Architect Ragnar C. Qvale and his brother Kjell bought the building for an estimated $5 million in 1979 with the intention to turn it into a design center for the interior furnishings industry. Three floors were converted to showrooms by 1981. The Design Center of Los Angeles signage can still be seen on the northern face of the annex structure.

The building changed hands again in 1989, this time fetching $25 million. Arnold Schwarzenegger was rumored to be an investor in the partnership that bought the structure.

More recently, the structure was listed for sale for $50 million in 2006. A Holiday Inn was rumored to be heading into the annex in 2008. The structure was considered by the Community Redevelopment Agency as a new home for its headquarters last year, but ended up deciding that the building had unspecified issues that made it unsuitable.

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