The motel, one of the creations of Birmingham businessman A.G. Gaston, opened July 1, 1954. It served a major role in the civil rights movement, providing lodging, dining and entertainment options for African-Americans traveling through the South.
Although it closed in 1986, the city of Birmingham subsequently purchased the property and has announced plans to restore it to its look of 1963 with help from the National Park Service.
In the courtyard of the A.G. Gaston Motel Monday, July 1, a ceremony was held featuring Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Sen. Doug Jones and other community leaders, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the hotel.
Gaston’s legacy will be honored in a number of ways. Not only will new life be breathed into the historic motel, but a portion of Fifth Avenue North will also be renamed A.G. Gaston Blvd.
As part of today’s festivities, National Park Service representatives also shared the hotel renovation will last a couple of years and is expected to wrap up in 2022. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) also featured a sneak peek of its exhibit which pays tribute to the Birmingham entrepreneur: “A.G. Gaston: The Man and His Legacy.”
Food trucks were parked just outside of BCRI and other activities for the commemoration included an afternoon concert at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church; excerpts read from a play about Gaston at St. Paul United Methodist Church; a reception at Bethel Baptist Church (home church of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth); and a “Community Conversations: Birmingham’s Black Business District” event at the Ballard House.
Gaston’s birthday will also be celebrated this week on July 4.
For more information about the A.G. Gaston Motel restoration project, visit www.birminghamal.gov/gaston.