Golden State Mutual murals center of controversy
CoKindles | 12/28/2011, 5 p.m.
During the 1940s, Golden State Mutual became the largest Black-owned insurance company on the West Coast and it became a cornerstone of the Black community in Los Angeles. It was one of the first companies to offer life insurance to African Americans in L.A.
The company's headquarters building, located in the West Adams district, was designed by Black architect Paul Williams. The building itself became a piece of Black history, when the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission approved its designation as a Historic-Cultural monument on April 7.
However, despite its historical significance the California Department of Insurance Conservation and Liquidation Office seized and dissolved much of the company's assets, including two internal murals.
The murals depict Black American cowboys, oil riggers and explorers.
But the state's move did not sit well with local historians, Angelenos, and those who treasure local history.
Regarded as significant examples of integrated art in Los Angeles Black history, independent appraisals put the value of the two murals anywhere between $2.2 and $5.5 million.
The Smithsonian Institute was actually considering purchasing the murals that went up for public auction, but due to protests, the institute rescinded its $700,000 bid.
"These murals are part of the historic fiber of the community and a significant part of Los Angeles' history," said Marcos Velayos, the nonprofit's attorney and a leading specialist in planning and land-use issues. "We think there is no better way to celebrate this history than by keeping the murals right here, where they always have been."