The building was constructed for Frederick Dakin, who owned a company which invested in gold mines. There is no record of the building's architect, but Dakin's son, Clarence, was an architect at the time of the building's construction, as was a niece, Edna Deakin, meaning that one of them most likely designed the building.
The building takes its name from the fact that the fifth story functioned as an artists' studio and gallery, with several artists and photographers occupying the space. The first art exhibit was held in 1906. A large painter's palette is set in tile at the building's entrance.
The building functioned as a hotel for much of the twentieth century. In 1978, it was named a City of Berkeley Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.