The A.G. Gaston Motel restoration project has received a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The money will go toward the city of Birmingham’s restoration of the interior coffee shop and dining room in the 1968 wing of the motel. The motel is the key historic site of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collaborative partnership of the city, the National Park Service and the Historical Preservation Authority.
The authority will receive the money from the Humanities in Place program.
“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 in a statement Wednesday. “I am thankful to the Mellon Foundation for this catalytic investment to continue revitalization of the Civil Rights District.”
When restored, the coffee shop and original dining room will serve food and beverages to residents and tourists, as well as create a space for community meetings, according to the statement.
“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.
Restoration of the motel began in 2019 on the 1954 wing of the hotel. This wing includes 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. Exterior restoration of the 1954 wing has been completed. Work now is being done on the exterior of the 1968 wing and courtyard of the motel. Work is expected to be complete in early summer 2022.
The city committed $10 million to restore the motel. The National Park Service owns and manages the 1954 wing.