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California Theater, California and Kearny Sts., 1898

Built by Bank of California founder William Ralston in 1869,
the California Theater had a gorgeous interior of California laurel and black walnut inlay. Its drop curtain, lavishly painted with scenes of the beauty of the San Francisco Bay by G.J. Denny, received its own applause between acts.


Bank of California at California and Sansome streets, 1868

William Ralston used his Comstock Lode fortune to found the Bank of California in San Francisco in 1864, the most prestigious bank in the west for a time. The bank offered the first funding to California wineries, trans-continental rail lines, Central Valley irrigation, and other endeavors which came to define the state's economy.

Oakland Library


Bank of California Under Construction, c. 1907

This site was already excavated and cleared for construction of the permanent bank at the time of the Great Earthquake in 1906. Six weeks later the new building was underway. Low-bed trucks, drawn by 18-horse teams, brought in the massive granite columns in sections , which were lifted by chain blocks.

The earthquake and fire of 1906 devastated four square miles of San Francisco, including most of the financial district. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and within three and a half years downtown had been rebuilt along pre-1906 lines.


Bank of California, 1935

Completed in 1908, the second headquarters of the Bank of California was modeled on the Knickerbocker Trust Company of New York City. The ornate Neo-classical façade of Tennessee marble remains today a historical landmark.



Bank of California Building, California Street circa 1910

Fire Insurance Co, Halsey & Co (to the left - 2nd and 1st floors respectively)


View East on California Street from Stockton c1890



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