New exhibits coming to 16th Street Baptist Church, plus update on the Civil Rights National Monument

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16th Street Baptist Church on July 15 2020. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Add the 16th Street Baptist Church’s parsonage to the list of historic buildings undergoing renovations within the boundaries of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

This week, Rev. Arthur Price, Pastor at the Historic 16th Street Baptist Church told Bham Now, the parsonage is slated to be rehabilitated beginning in mid-August till the end of the year. 

Honoring Wallace Rayfield

Architect Wallace Rayfield designed both the 16th Street Baptist Church and the parsonage. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Once renovated the building will have a dual purpose. Along with office space for the church, the ground floor will display exhibits honoring Wallace Rayfield, the architect who designed 16th Street Baptist Church and parsonage.  Nationally renowned, Rayfield was the second licensed African-American architect in the country.

According to Rev. Price, the church is also planning an additional exhibit about the church’s globally acclaimed Wales Window.

Photo of the stained glass window donated to the 16th Street Baptist church by the people of Wales. Photo by Jon Eastwood

The rehabilitation of the parsonage and the addition of the exhibits were made possible by the African American Civil Rights Grants Program and the Historic Preservation Fund.

Birmingham based ArchictectureWorks is the architecture firm designing and heading up the project.

Additional Projects Around the National Monument

Three pastors monument at Kelly Ingram Park in the Birmingham Civil Rights District. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

In January 2017, President Barack Obama designated the area around 16th Street Church, Kelly Ingram Park, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Masonic Temple, A.G. Gaston Motel, and nearby churches a National Monument.

As a result, the area has secured a number of grants to restore and rehabilitate many of the buildings within and near the Monument boundaries.

A.G. Gaston Motel Exterior

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin addressing the news conference about restoration of the A.G. Gaston Motel in 2019 Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

For example, phase one of the A.G. Gaston Motel restoration , which received grant funding in 2019, is expected to be completed at the end of 2020, according to Kris Butcher, the National Parks Service (NPS) Superintendent for the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

The first phase has concentrated on the exterior areas of the historic motel.

A.G. Gaston Motel is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

“The 1954 and 1968 sides of the exterior of the motel will be completely renovated and hopefully will look as good as new,” said Superintendent Butcher. “It is the foundation literally everything is built upon. It is really interesting to see the work that is being done. To be reminded that the Motel was bombed on an attempt on Dr. King’s life. During the restoration process we have uncovered that area and other historically significant things we need to protect. A lot of work has been done.”

Both the city of Birmingham and NPS intend to start phase two shortly after the completion of phase one so the project will not lose any momentum on the restoration.

Other Grant Recipients

St. Paul United Methodist Church received a $500,000 African American Civil Rights grant. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Aside from the 16th Street Baptist Church and A.G. Gaston Motel, several other prominent churches during the civil right era have received funds including efforts to preserve and repair  St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and Bethel Baptist Church. 

In total, the area around  Birmingham Civil Rights District and National Monument were awarded $1.3 million in African American Civil Rights Grants  during Fiscal Year 2020.

In Six Months

We look forward to seeing the new exhibits at the 16th Street parsonage and the completion of phase one at the A.G. Gaston Motel over the next six months. 

Stay tuned

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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