Commercial Exchange Building

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 Los Angeles Historic Cultural Landmark in 2017. Spectra performed the façade rehabilitation and restoring historic ceilings, replicating and restoring historic terra-cotta and brick unit masonry, restoring and repainting decoratively painted plaster ceilings, and restoring original building entrances that had been significantly altered.

Scope of Work

Adaptive Reuse • Decorative Concrete • Decorative Metal • Facade Rehabilitation • Masonry • Ornamental Plaster • Plaster • Restoration Painting & Coatings • Self-Perform • Terra-Cotta


California Preservation Foundation 2018 • Los Angeles Conservancy 2018

Related Projects