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From the Fireman’s Fund Record, June 1915.

The new home of The Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, on the old site occupied for many years, is a monument worthy of the achievements and traditions of the company. Not only is it one of the largest, handsomest, and best-equipped structures in the world devoted exclusively to the offices of one company, but it is a contribution to the beauty of rebuilt San Francisco, with whose development the company has been closely identified for more than half a century.

More than the past has been taken into consideration in this edifice. The future has played its part as well, the plans being drawn to make possible with a minimum of trouble the addition of more stories. This is more than a structural detail; it has the significance of a prophecy whose validity is based on long experience.

Doubtless not one of the 7000 insurance men comprising the remarkable agency system which The Fireman’s Fund has built up in the course of its long career will fail to feel something of a personal interest in the new building, to say nothing of the thousands of others who have had business relations with the company. But, in addition to this, the building has a technical interest, in one respect, for every insurance worker, because of the care taken to make it as thoroughly fireproof as possible.

The building is the work of Lewis P. Hobart, one of the most prominent architects of the West, whose plans were adopted by the directors of the company little more than a year ago.

The full resources requisite to success with this type of structure have been drawn upon by Mr. Hobart, to make The Fireman’s Fund home a work of admiration no less esthetically than in the more material senses.

Of prime interest is the detail of construction with regard especially to fireproofing. The company is convinced that its new headquarters are nothing short of a model in this respect.

The men in the home office know what Class A implies as a designation of construction, but for many others connected with the company it is necessary to explain that Class A in San Francisco means in building specifications what A-1 means to shipping men, and even more. In the reconstruction era of San Francisco, after the great fire of 1906, the building regulations were altered and various types of construction were designated by lettered classes, with A as the topmost. The Fireman’s Fund building belongs in the van of the first class.

The edifice, of fireproof construction throughout, has a steel frame resting on a concrete pile foundation. The frame is designed to carry three additional floors when the future growth of the company warrants the enlargement.

The construction consists of steel columns and beams, with a reinforced concrete floor slab, covered with linoleum. All of the steel beams and columns are fireproofed with concrete.

One feature is an absolutely watertight basement finished throughout in concrete.

The building is monumental in character, being outwardly a scheme of double Corinthian columns with Roman detail throughout. The base is of Indiana limestone, very flat and simply ornamented. From above the Indiana limestone base, the work is of a rich, warm terra cotta, very similar to Pink Tennessee marble. The columns are forty-one feet in height and jointed, with horizontal jointing only exposed, giving an almost monolithic effect of strength. The vertical joints in all cases are concealed as much as possible, the effect of strength thus being emphasized.

The main entrance doorway adds greatly to the handsomeness of the building, supplementing and increasing the majestic strength of the façade. On the outer side it is of carved stone, within of marble, the vestibule being treated in ornamental iron and glass.

The lot, eighty-seven feet six inches square, including an alley in the rear, makes possible the utilization of daylight on three sides of all three stories. This adds not a little to the impressiveness of the main public office on the first floor, seventy-five feet by eighty in dimensions.

The public space of the main floor is treated with marble, the trim of the main floor and the elevator being of Travernelle marble. The floor is of Gray Tennessee marble with a Black Belgian base.

The counters here, as elsewhere throughout the building, and the rest of the furniture as well, are of mahogany, the tone of the wood increasing the richness of detail.

The main floor is given over to the city department, the country department, the automobile department, the secretary’s office, those of the assistant secretaries, the treasurer, and the cashier. On the second floor are the offices of the president, the vice-president, the marine secretary, the general auditor, and the marine department.

The third floor holds the office of the general adjuster, statisticians, and the directors’ room, which, like those of the president and vice-president, is of especially handsome and spacious treatment, with hardwood floor and canvas panels.

In the rest of the lesser details, the same care has been exercised to make the structure of the first quality. There is steam heat, with both direct and indirect radiators; the lighting system is indirect throughout; there are both hot and cold water, and, in addition, iced drinking-water has been provided for in a pipe system, and there are drinking-fountains at convenient points on all floors. The electric elevators are more than the ordinary wire cages of office buildings their wooden finish is of unusual richness, though harmonizing with the simplicity which adds so much to the building’s beauty.

Not a little of the fittings – for instance, the seventy-five lockers for men and the twenty-eight for women in the basement are of steel.

Wiring for messenger and telephone service is a matter of course, but on each floor there has been provided a set of outlets, eight feet apart, with conduits for the annunciator, telephone and dictaphone systems.

Besides all this, two noteworthy provisions have been made in carrying out the plans. One is the social hall for employees, in the basement. The other, of far wider scope, is construction with a view to the building’s harmonizing with adjacent structures, giving a greater unity to the neighborhood – San Francisco’s insurance district – centering in The Fireman’s Fund home, and making it in one sense as worthy of architectural consideration as a civic center.

The company has been so long identified with the corner now again occupied – indeed, it may be said that the home office has never been scarcely more than a stone’s throw distant – that there has been no sense of strangeness, even momentary, in moving back. The spirit has been, instead, that of a home-coming.

This attitude on the part of those carrying on the company’s work is enhanced by the knowledge that they are witnessing and participating in a notable stage of its progress, just as their forerunners did in the early sixties, when they installed the home office in a building which in its day was a model.

[Fireman’s Fund Archives: 4-1-3-4-26; 0405]


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