The Overton Hygienic Building is one of the most important elements of the African American community known as the Black Metropolis. Established by the beginning of the 20th century, this commercial district developed in response to the restrictions and exploitation blacks experienced in the rest of the city. Entrepreneur Anthony Overton contracted for the building that bears his name in order to create a home for his numerous enterprises, including banking, publishing and cosmetics. The Overton Hygienic Building not only housed Overton's empire, but provided rental space for other black professionals.
The four-story concrete building, designed by Z. Erol Smith, is clad in yellow-brown wire-cut brick and glazed white terra cotta trim. It is supported by a complete reinforced concrete frame. The elevator and mechanical shaft rises two stories above the roof level to allow for additions. The ground floor was the quarters for Overton's bank and life insurance company. The second floor housed the rental offices of other professional services, while the third and fourth floors were occupied by the remaining Overton businesses.
The Overton Hygienic Building is located at 3619-3627 S. State St. It is now owned and being developed by the Mid-South Planning and Development Commission, a coalition of community groups. The renovated building will be used as an incubator space for small and startup businesses for the Black Metropolis neighborhood.
The Overton Hygienic Building, part of Chicago's Black Metropolis, is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
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