Jefferson Standard Building
Greensboro's Jefferson Standard Building is one of the largest and tallest office buildings in North Carolina. The building originally served as the headquarters of the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company which was chartered in 1907. That company was named in honor of former President and author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson. This impressive structure was built for the company in 1923 after the vice-president of the company Julian Price contracted with architect Charles C. Hartmann to design the building. The company expanded and grew over the years, and is still active in the Greensboro community. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Backstory and Context
The Jefferson Standard Building started out as Jefferson Standard Life Insurance on August 7, 1907, in Raleigh, North Carolina as one of the largest corporations to be established in North Carolina. The name Jefferson is inspired by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. This inspiration gave rise to their motto “A Jefferson Standard Policy is a Declaration of Independence for the family.” The Insurance Company in Raleigh proved to be a popular success right away, and in 1912 the company moved to Greensboro after merging with the Greensboro Life Insurance Company and the Security Life and Annuity Company.
The company rented office buildings until May 2, 1917, when the company was the highest bidder at the sale of the 1872 Guilford County Courthouse, paying $171,000 for the prime property at the corner of Elm and Market Streets. Charles C. Hartmann, an architect from New York, was offered the commission to design the new headquarters for Jefferson Standard if he’d move to Greensboro to set up his practice, which he did – designing multiple Greensboro buildings until his retirement in the 1960s.
Much of the motivating force behind the Jefferson Standard Building was because of Julian Price, the company’s president from 1919 till his death in 1946. Vice president at the time, it was Price who offered the commission to Hartmann, and he continued to shape Greensboro during his time as president. Price also pushed for his operations to extend to all of the southern states, and he ended up in fourteen of them. He pushed outwards into the Midwest and west, building a reputation for himself and his company.
Upon Julian Price's death in 1946, his son Ralph Clay Price took over for four years as president until replaced by Howard Holderness, who expanded upon Price’s ideals, and “the company embarked on a journey of steady and rapid expansion that propelled it to the forefront of the insurance company.”, as stated in the Jefferson-Pilot Company history. W. Rodger Soles took over from Holderness in 1967, and it was under him that the organization was turned into the holding company Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, reflecting their subsidiary Pilot Life. Replaced in 1993 by David A. Stonecipher, this new leader continued the trend and expanded the corporation farther than ever, acquiring rapid-growth and becoming a nationally recognized life-insurance company.
At the time, the Jefferson Standard Building was the largest and tallest office building in the south. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still considered a hallmark of Greensboro. It provides much in terms of economic revenue to the city and state, but it also provides a unique culture that comes with it. When built, it “contained 129 businesses and 1,000 employees.” Known as the “city in a city,” it was home to stores, amenities, and other goods, though they are not in use any longer. The building was modeled after a combination of the Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, and Art Deco styles. Eighteen stories tall, it has a steel frame structure with brick exterior walls sheathed with granite and terra cotta. The building is U-shaped with an unbroken, 186 ft. tall façade on the side of Elm Street. Atop the entrance to the building is a bust of the namesake, Thomas Jefferson.
- 101-117 N. Elm Street Jefferson Building, Greensboro Public Library. Accessed October 6th 2019. https://library.greensboro-nc.gov/research/north-carolina-collection/historical-walking-tour/101-117-n-elm-street-jefferson-building.
- Jefferson-Pilot Corporation History, Funding Universe. Accessed October 6th 2019. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/jefferson-pilot-corporation-history/.
- Briggs, Benjamin . The Jefferson Standard Building: Lower Manhattan Comes to Greensboro, Preservation Greensboro. August 24th 2015. Accessed October 6th 2019. https://preservationgreensboro.org/the-jefferson-standard-building/.
- Jefferson Standard Building. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form .