Mellon Foundation gifts $1.1M to help restore A.G. Gaston Motel

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A.G. Gaston Sign
Newly restored A.G. Gaston sign. Photo via the City of Birmingham

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $1.1 million grant to the City of Birmingham’s restoration of the historic A.G. Gaston Motel.

Funds from the “Humanities in Place” program will support restoration of the interior coffee shop and dining room in the 1968 wing of the motel. 

The A.G. Gaston Motel is the key historic site of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collaborative partnership of the National Park Service, the City of Birmingham, and the Historical Preservation Authority. The authority, which was created by the city to oversee the restoration, will receive the grant.

“We are very proud of the work that continues at the A.G. Gaston Motel. The Mellon Foundation’s ‘Humanities in Place’ grant emphasizes the importance of this location as a permanent exhibit on the life and legacy of A.G. Gaston,” Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said. “I am thankful to the Mellon Foundation for this catalytic investment to continue revitalization of the Civil Rights District.”

Restoration of the coffee shop and original dining room will provide an operational facility to serve food and beverage for residents and tourists, as well as create a space for community meetings. 

Work Continues at A.G. Gaston Motel

Gaston
Odessa Woolfolk speaking at the A.G. Gaston Motel news conference. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Work on the historic motel began in the Spring of 2019.  The first phase of the restoration was completed this past March. That effort included restoring the 1954 wing of the motel and Room 30 known as the “War Room,” where Project “C” was strategized by the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. 

This past March the restoration of the wing was marked by the lighting of the A.G. Gaston Motel sign.

Phase 2 restoration is currently underway on the exterior of the 1968 wing and courtyard of the motel. Work is expected to be complete in early summer 2022. 

“This restoration will allow this site to once again be a community gathering place for social justice engagement and change,” said Denise E. Gilmore, senior director of the city’s Division of Social Justice and Racial Equity.

The A.G. Gaston Motel is part of the  Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument which was established in 2017 by President Barack Obama.

A. G. Gaston Motel
Exterior view of the Courtyard at the A.G. Gaston Motel. Photo via city of Birmingham

 The City of Birmingham has committed $10,000,000 to restore the motel. The National Park Service owns and manages the 1954 wing and has management and financial responsibility for the interior restoration and interpretation.  

Have you ever visited the A.G. Gaston Motel? Tell us your stories by tagging us on social media at @bhamnow

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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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