The City of Birmingham has announced that starting June 29, the historic A.G Gaston Motel will be open to the public for a free visit. Take the opportunity to explore a key historic site of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement for a limited time. Read on for details.
Explore pieces of the past
Originally opened on July 1, 1954 by renowned Birmingham businessman A. G. Gaston, the motel quickly became one of the city’s iconic establishments. It was built to offer first-class lodging, entertainment and dining options for African-Americans traveling through a segregated South.
“The A. G. Gaston Motel served as the headquarters for much of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement and a place of rest for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many freedom fighters. It was also the backdrop to the memories of many of Birmingham residents, their honeymoons, graduations, and proms. That makes it a very special place.”Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin
When you visit the motel, you’ll experience standing in the courtyard where the footsoldiers once stood; they listened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and other leaders of the civil rights movement give instructions on Project “C”, which aided in breaking the grip of segregation.
Located in the historic Civil Rights District at 1510 Fifth Ave. North, visitors will also be able to view an exhibit on the life and legacy of Dr. A. G. Gaston.
“We are grateful for the partnerships that helped to make this opening happen. It gives me great joy that the Gaston Motel has new life and will now be a part of new stories to come. It was always a place that welcomed all people, and starting Thursday that legacy continues.”Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.
Restoring the motel
Fun fact: Notable celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington and Harry Belefonte stayed at the A. G. Gaston Motel.
Jointly owned by the City of Birmingham and the National Park Service (NPS,) the motel has been undergoing a $10 million multi-phase renovation since 2019.
It serves as the centerpiece of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, established in 2017 by President Barack Obama.
The A. G. Gaston Construction Company, a legacy company of Dr. Gaston, was contracted to undertake the restoration. In December of 2020, the NPS wing was completed, featuring a beautiful restored sign for the iconic motel.
“The opening of the historic A. G. Gaston Motel is a major accomplishment for the people of Birmingham. It was an honor to lead the restoration on behalf of the Mayor’s Office in collaboration with Capital Projects. We owe a special thanks to so many partners, the Mellon Foundation, NPS, Gaston Construction Company, Lord Aeck Sargent and to everyone who contributed their time, talent, and skills to see this restoration through to a successful opening.”Denise E. Gilmore, Senior Director, City of Birmingham Division of Social Justice and Racial Equity
The restoration continued in 2021 with work on the City of Birmingham’s 1968 wing and courtyard, which is now completed. The Mellon Foundation also awarded a $1.1 million grant to the City to go towards restoration efforts.
Visit for yourself
“It is our hope that the gift of the restored Gaston Motel will serve to inspire residents and visitors for current and future generations to come. This historic site is hallowed ground. The strategies, meetings, and work of activists that took place here contributed in part to the freedoms we have today.”Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin
- Location: 1510 5th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
- Hours: Thursdays-Saturdays from 10AM-4PM
- Note: Beginning in late summer, an admission fee will be charged to visitors to help support the cost of operations. The NPS-owned side, originally built in 1954, is not yet open for visitation.
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