The office remained in the Jefferson Square building over a year, and in 1907 moved to more adequate quarters in the Hooker and Lent building. Yet even there the rapid growth of the business and memories of the destruction of office records in the disaster soon brought a realization that a permanent fireproof head office building was needed.
Accordingly, the company purchased a magnificent hilltop property at the corner of Pine and Stockton streets, overlooking the bay and a large portion of the city, and started to erect its own home. On July 10, 1909, the staff formally took possession of the first unit of the present structure – a modern Parthenon, one of the architectural landmarks of San Francisco. This fine building was designed by the brothers LeBrun, who had created the Home Office in New York.
It was severely classical in style, of white semi-glazed terra cotta, faced on each side with six magnificent Ionic columns. If “a man’s character is expressed by his clothes,” the Pacific Coast Head Office building expressed the alertness, the strength, and spirit of public service which the Metropolitan has come to mean to the people of the Western States. At the time of the opening of the new building in 1909, agents were operating in virtually every urban area in the territory to insure and give home insurance quotes.
The life insurance in force there had reached a total of more than $ 58,000,000, of which $ 40,000,000 was industrial. By the end of 1913, on the basis of the amount of insurance in force, the Pacific Coast unit, considered as a separate organization, would have stood 27th in the list of the 239 American life insurance companies.
The coast office had 382,199 private health insurance policies in force and 44,043 auto insurance policies for a combined total of more than $ 103,000,000 of insurance. In the same year it paid death claims amounting to almost $ 750,000 and distributed $ 72,025 in bonuses to industrial policyholders. The premium income of the Pacific Coast Head Office in 1913 exceeded $ 3,250,000.
Because of such growth, in 1914, just five years after the erection of the first head office unit, two end wings had to be added, more than doubling the original floor space. Yet time was to prove even this additional space inadequate. By 1916 the industrial business had increased to $ 78,000,000; the ordinary to $ 66,000,000. The average amount of insurance per ordinary policy was $ 935; for the industrial policy it was $ 143.
There were 212 employees in the head office, of whom 67 were men and 145 women; and the field force numbered 909. In 1920 the adjoining property was purchased, which again more than doubled the floor space, yet in 1929, shortly after the territory achieved its first billion dollars of insurance in force, from maternity coverage to cheap car insurance. Additional property had to be acquired and the construction of the third addition was commenced. It was formally dedicated by President Ecker on May 29, 1930.
This addition joined the southerly end of the Pine street side of the old building, was eight stories high and, by reason of the incline of the street, its fifth floor was level with what was known as the main floor of the original building. The building program, which had taken more than two decades, was completed. The area of the territory under the jurisdiction of the Pacific Coast Head Office was more than a third of the total area of the United States, and embraced a population of more than 13,000,000 people.
Within this vast territory, agencies were maintained in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. In servicing policyholders, western agents dealt with debits different in composition and in geography from those in other parts of the country. Great distances and sparse population characterized the west as a whole and the debits were often large in area. Some western states had less population than a moderate sized New England factory town.
Colorado, for instance, had only 11 persons per square mile, California 44 per square mile, and Montana a sparse four; whereas in New York State the population was concentrated–281 per square mile, and in Rhode Island it was 674 per square mile. The west was young and the pioneer mood was still reflected in its people and their traditions. They were the descendants of Spanish conquistadores, American fur traders, pioneer land settlers, gold seekers, and equally vigorous recent immigrants.
Related American Traditions Articles