Protection, Trust, Fidelity

Hugo Ballin, 1928. 433 S. Spring Street, formerly Title Insurance and Trust Company Building, currently the Los Angeles Design Center.
The Title Insurance and Trust Company Building, designed by John and Donald Parkinson, is one of the sumptuous office buildings constructed during the late 1920s that marked Spring Street as the financial center of Southern California. Rich materials and fine details, including a ceiling designed by Herman Sachs, make the lobby a city treasure. Public art was often incorporated in buildings of the period to reinforce the meaning of the building and make a public statement about the building's main client. This notion can be seen in the bas reliefs over the entrances to the Los Angeles Times Building and One Bunker Hill, and in the architectural sculpture on the Fine Arts Building and the Central Library. The Title Insurance and Trust Company Building, however, posed a dilemma. Public art was expected, but bas reliefs and architectural sculpture would have been incompatible with the fashionably modern art-deco style of the architecture.(1) The solution was a series of three allegorical tile murals by the city's premiere muralist of the day, Hugo Ballin. "Protection," on the viewer's left, depicts a woman as a warrior leaning forward, her right hand holding a weapon and her right arm poised for combat. In the foreground is a robed man, perhaps engaged in peaceful commerce. The central panel "Trust," is also dominated by a female figure, reminiscent of the figures symbolizing justice on courthouses. "Fidelity," the panel on the viewer's right, replicates the basic design of the panel on the viewer's left. A female figure leans forward, clutching cloth, while an elderly man stands in the foreground. Together, these three murals, the only outdoor murals executed by Ballin, express the guiding principals of the Title Insurance and Trust Company and are among the oldest existing outdoor murals in Los Angeles.

Footnotes:

1 "The Architecture of Los Angeles," by Paul Gleye, c. 1981, The Knapp Press, Los Angeles, p. 112, 126.


The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, October 1999.

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