The historic Winston Mutual building near downtown Winston-Salem has a few new tenants.
On Friday, July 11, city officials held a ribbon cutting and open house to celebrate the relocation of two city offices in the building at 1225 E. Fifth Street. The Police Department's Community Resources Unit, which conducts various crime prevention and community relations activities is on the second floor, and the building's third and fourth floors now house the city's engineering field offices.
City officials say the more than 18,000-square-foot building has been a source of economic and civic pride in the black community since Winston Mutual Life Insurance Co. spent more than $700,000 to build it in 1969. The company was founded in 1906 by 12 black business officials who wanted to provide insurance and home mortgage products in their community.
Fifth Street Investments LLC, bought the property in September 2012 from Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co. of Los Angeles. The building sat vacant over the past three years, after Golden State went bankrupt.
Winston-Salem city council member Derwin Montgomery represents the East Ward. He recently moved his office into the building. Montgomery says the structure is an important part of the community's history. “You had an African American owned insurance company and for the time in which Winston Mutual was in existence, that wasn't something that was the standard in the city or nationally. For the community it represents and continues to represent a beacon of African American entrepreneurship for us here in the city.”
Meanwhile, Montgomery says city officials are conducting preliminary work to get the Winston Mutual Building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They also plan to officially designate the building as a local historic landmark in the coming months.