The Bay Builder’s Exchange Building, an outstanding example of the Churrigueresque architectural style with its elaborate signatory elements, such as stylized pilasters, low-relief cast stone decorative spandrels and ornamental iron work, helped expand Downtown Santa Monica’s commercial district during the 1920s and was constructed towards the end of the city’s first building boom.
This structure was designed by architect Eugene Durfee who also designed the landmarked Georgian Hotel and the Central Tower Building. Arthur P. Creel, whose investment in real estate development helped create the 3rd Street Commercial District, developed the Bay Builder’s Exchange Building. He was responsible for backing the construction of some of Santa Monica’s largest buildings. He was highly skilled in the regional interpretation of popular architectural styles of the period, including the Spanish Colonial Revival style and Art Deco.
The two- and three-story brick masonry commercial building with veneered stucco and embellished with decorative art stone is located in the Central Business District of Downtown Santa Monica. It is approximately 110 feet by 150 feet and has an L-shaped footprint. It is comprised of a three-story corner wing at the intersection of Broadway and 4th Street, and a two-story wing fronting 4th Street. The building has a flat roof and the principal facades have tapered mission tiles along a raised parapet.
It was intended to be a one-stop center for the construction industry, housing ground-level stores fronting Third Street and Broadway, as well as the Bay Builder’s Exchange, a membership organization much like the Chamber of Commerce that included more than 150 Bay District firms comprised of contractors, subcontractors and material dealers united “to maintain high standards in the work of the building trade.” British designer and contractor Andrew Menzies, who was known for his English-inspired homes, as well as Elzie Crisler Segar, the creator of the “Popeye” comic, worked at the Builder’s Exchange building. It is said that Segar would take breaks at the Santa Monica Pier, which inspired him to draw Popeye and Olive Oyl.