This original building housed the business offices of Atlanta Life from 1920-1980 in Sweet Auburn.
Sweet Auburn Works Celebrates Virtual History Month
In celebration of Virtual Preservation Month, Sweet Auburn Works highlights Alonzo Herndon and the legacy of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
Join us as we “unlock a piece of history” with a sneak peek into the Historic Atlanta Life Building.
A barber and entrepreneur, Alonzo Herndon was the founder and president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, one of the most successful black-owned insurance businesses in the nation. At the time of his death in 1927, the company cemented his status as Atlanta’s wealthiest black citizen.
When Herndon founded the company – with a $140 investment – it was the outgrowth of one of the many benevolent societies that catered to black low and moderate-income consumers.
In time, Atlanta Life became a household name to black families throughout 17 states. Its salespeople collected premiums weekly, and the company became woven into the fabric of the communities it served through its strong civic involvement and its pivotal role in the underpinnings of the civil rights movement.
Sweet Auburn Works decided to offer a brief glimpse into the historic home of one of Atlanta’s greatest African-American entrepreneurial achievements.
The images, courtesy of the Historic District Development Corporation, provide a vivid view of the Atlanta Life building as it sits today. They offer a vision into its past, and one can imagine working in its offices, walking through its halls, and being part of an organization that touched so many lives in its storied history.
For many years it operated as a mutual assessment enterprise. The company offered one contract, an industrial health and accident policy, which paid a small sum upon the death of a policyholder. In 1916 the firm strengthened its financial base by becoming a stockholder organization. Using his personal resources to support the enterprise, Herndon purchased approximately 90 percent of Atlanta Life’s stock.
We’re excited to share these images of the historic Atlanta Life Insurance building to the public for the first time. If you’d like to see more images or even videos of Sweet Auburn’s architectural gems, please leave us a comment.
View more examples of Virtual Preservation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Saving Places.