Commercial Exchange Building
(Los Angeles, CA)

The 13-story Commercial Exchange Building at 8th and Olive was designed by the architectural firm of Walker and Eisen. Completed in 1924, the building served as the headquarters of the Owl Drug Co., and housed the publishing company of “Tarzan” author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was the tallest building in its area at the time and also boasted three high-speed elevators, offices with abundant light, elegant mahogany trim and millwork, and coveted two-hour street parking. 

When Los Angeles city officials decided to widen Olive Street in the mid-1930s, the owners of the Commercial Exchange Building removed a nearly 10-foot-wide section from the middle of the building. Engineers then slid the western portion east and reunited the two pieces of the building. According to a Times article from 1935, the process cost $60,000.

Vacant since the mid-1980s, the building has now been converted by NY-based hotel developer Sydell Group into their new trendy hostels concept called “Freehand.” The iconic Commercial Exchange neon sign, one of the tallest in LA, was also restored as part of the project. The building was declared a Historic Cultural Landmark in 2017. Spectra replicated historic terra cotta and brick unit masonry, restored decorative plaster ceilings, and performed parapet restoration.


  • Selective Demolition
  • Terra Cotta and Brick Unit Masonry- Replication
  • Decorative Plaster Ceiling
  • Parapet Reconstruction

Design Team

Owner: Sydell Group
Original Architect: Walker and Eisen
Architect: Killefer Flammang Architects
Historic Preservation Consultant: Historic Consultants, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Koenigsberg Engineering, P.C.
General Contractor: Shangri-La Construction, LP
Restoration Contractor: Spectra Company
Signage Restoartion: OneOne77

The Greenest Building Is One That Already Exists