301 Pine Street-one of the historic buildings that comprised our financial system on the West Coast-began its life in 1915 as a sub-treasury building for the United States Treasury. In 1930, when the San Francisco Financial District was fast becoming the Wall Street of the West, the “gentlemen of the tape and ticker” sought a building to express the important financial work they were doing. They chose the San Francisco firm of Miller and Pflueger to remodel the old government building into a new Exchange.
At this point in his life architect Timothy Pflueger was interested in throwing out Classicism, a style of architecture modeled after ancient Greek and Roman structures; however, his commission required that he keep the colonnade and the granite stairs leading to the building, part of the original design by J. Milton Dyer of Cleveland, Ohio. As a result, the original building was completely gutted, and the only thing that remained was the front of the building we see today. The colonnade consists of ten Tuscan columns, and as part of the Tuscan Order, the entablature, the area above the columns, should have remained plain and simple. Instead, Pflueger chose to break the classical rules and placed two Art Deco medallions inside the entablature. Art Deco began in the 1920s and lasted for a good twenty years. Known for its linear symmetry, it was a nice fit with the simple Tuscan style that Pflueger was forced to keep.
Art Deco medallions inside the entablature of the Pacific Stock Exchange Building:
The massive Art Deco pieces that grace the Exchange were sculpted out of Yosemite granite by Ralph Stackpole. They are meant to show the polarity of agriculture and industry and are named accordingly. The sculptures were an important part of Pflueger’s move toward modern architecture, as he did not want any of the “classic” repetitive art on the exterior of the building.
The Pacific Coast Stock Exchange has a long history in the financial world of the United States. In 1882 nineteen gentlemen anted up $50 each to form the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange. In 1957 they merged with the Los Angeles Oil Exchange to become the Pacific Stock Exchange, although each town kept its own trading floor. In 1976 they began trading options, and options are still traded in a building around the corner. The trading floor closed in 2002, and the building was later sold to private developers. In a wonderful example of historic reuse, the tenant today is Equinox Fitness.