This two-story building with a tan brick facade was built in 1909 for the Afro-American Insurance Company in Rock Hill. It is the work of William H. Smith, a noted African-American architect from neighboring Charlotte, North Carolina. Smith designed the building for the local branch of an insurance company that had offices across the southeast. The company was owned and operated by black businessmen and served black clients in predominantly black communities. The Rock Hill branch was significant in its leadership of black commerce in the city during the early twentieth century.
In addition to the Afro-American Insurance Company, this building has also housed other black-owned businesses, including restaurants and grocery stores, over the past century. Though many black-built and owned businesses in Rock Hill have been razed during redevelopment projects, the Afro-American Insurance building remains a fixture.
The Afro-American Insurance Building is listed in the National Register:
The Afro-American Insurance Company Building was constructed about 1909 to house the local office of the Afro-American Insurance Company. This company, with offices in several southeastern states, was one of several insurance companies owned and operated by African Americans marketing to African American communities. The company’s building in Rock Hill became an impressive symbol of the aspirations for commercial success among many African American leaders. It also was evidence of the growing market for business and financial services within the emerging African American middle class. The building is the design of William W. Smith of Charlotte, an important African American designer and builder in the region. Because most buildings that historically housed African American businesses in Rock Hill have been destroyed through urban renewal programs, the Afro-American Insurance Company Building has added significance as perhaps the most important surviving example of a commercial building related to the African American community of the early twentieth century. It is a two-story commercial building of brick laid in common bond. The façade has a tan brick veneer, while the sides and rear are in red brick. The façade has brick quoining at the corners and a corbelled brick cornice and center parapet with recessed panel.
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