The third floor was originally occupied by a mix of Masonic and public offices, including the Jacksonville branch offices of the Atlanta and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance companies prior to World War II. The Atlanta Life Insurance Company was founded in 1905 by a former enslaved person, Alonzo Herndon, who went on to become one of the first Black millionaires in the country. North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was founded in 1898 by John C. Merrick. Headquartered in Downtown Durham, NC, it is considered to be one of the most influential African-American businesses in United States history.
The fourth floor is occupied by many of the most important Masonic offices, including that of the grand master.
Grand East, which seats 900, occupies most of the building’s fifth floor. One of the largest auditoriums in the Black community during segregation, many events and meetings of national significance have taken place in this space since 1914. This includes nightly sermons by Princess Laura Adorkor Kofi, then associated with Marcus Garvey’s pan-African movement, during the 1920s, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porter (BSCP) meetings led by Asa Philip Randolph, and Civil Rights organization meetings by the NAACP during the 1960s.
The sixth floor contains small lodge meeting rooms and the balcony seating for the Grand East auditorium.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com