Federal and native officers gathered within the Birmingham Civil Rights District Thursday to have a good time completion of the newest part of the renovation of the historic A.G. Gaston Motel. The 1968 wing of the motel is now restored as a espresso store and an exhibit devoted to the legacy of A.G. Gaston.
“We’ve all heard the phrase: ‘We’re our ancestors’ wildest desires.’ To face right here earlier than you at the moment in celebration and commemoration of the restoration of this historic landmark, these phrases actually ring true,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin mentioned.
Gaston was a pillar of the Birmingham enterprise group and town’s first African American millionaire. He opened the motel on July 1, 1954, and it grew to become one of many metropolis’s foremost Black institutions. The motel served as a first-class lodging, leisure and eating corridor for touring Black individuals who got here to Jim Crow Birmingham. One room within the motel was referred to as the “Conflict Room,” the place Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and different civil rights leaders strategized.
Celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, James Baldwin, and Harry Belafonte stayed on the motel earlier than the power closed in 1986.
“I’m acutely aware that we’re on hallowed floor. The very area we’re standing now’s so necessary in Black historical past, in American historical past,” mentioned Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who took half within the ribbon chopping. “And in a style of historical past that reminds us of how necessary it’s to maneuver round, a motel of refuge of vacationers, how a lot that means to maneuver round is expounded to justice and prosperity.”
The motel is a key a part of the Birmingham Civil Rights Nationwide Monument, which was established in 2017 by President Barack Obama. The challenge is a collaboration of the Nationwide Park Service, the Metropolis of Birmingham and the Historic Preservation Authority.
The A.G. Gaston Motel’s multi-phase restoration started in 2019 and the Metropolis of Birmingham dedicated $10 million to revive the motel. The Mellon Basis additionally gave over $1 million in direction of the challenge. These funds got particularly for the restoration of the espresso store, eating room and exhibit. The espresso store will serve meals and drinks for residents and vacationers. The adjoining exhibit, which was a eating corridor when the motel was initially open, may even be open to the general public.
The Nationwide Park Service will oversee the subsequent step of the lodge’s renovation. The present federal funds contains $5.6 million in direction of the challenge, which is scheduled for completion in 2025.