Chicago Landmarks

Supreme Life Building

Exterior, Photo by CCL, 2006     Address: 3501 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
Year Built: 1921 remodeled 1950 and 2006
Architect: Albert Anis
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: September 9, 1998

Ad for Liberty Life Insurance Co., 1926 This was the longtime headquarters of the first African-American owned and operated insurance company in the northern United States. Founded in 1919 by Frank L. Gillespie (as the Liberty Life Insurance Company), the firm moved in 1921 into the second floor of this building, which had been constructed by the Roosevelt State Bank. Liberty Life bought the entire structure in 1924 and, in 1929, merged with two out-of-state firms to form the Supreme Life Insurance Company of America. In 1950, after becoming one of the few major businesses of "Black Metropolis" to survive the Great Depression, the company modernized the building by covering the original classical-style facade with porcelain-metal panels. It is one of nine structures in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District.