North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Building in the 1920s

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Building in the 1920s

By 1921 Durham’s signature black business, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, had grown too large for its building on Parrish Street. That building was demolished and a new, six-story one—the tallest on the street—went up in its place. The Mutual occupied the top four floors and the basement of the new, Neoclassical structure designed by local architects Rose & Rose. Mechanics and Farmers Bank occupied the first floor and Bankers Fire Insurance Company, the second.

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Building was a symbol of black prosperity and leadership at a time when African Americans in the South had few prospects for progress. To work for the Mutual was a great achievement, a sign of respectability and community responsibility. By the 1960s the Mutual had outgrown its Parrish Street location, and an International-style tower on Chapel Hill Street was constructed at the former site of B. N. Duke’s mansion.