HHB Engineers will be the Mechanical Engineers for the renovation and restoration of the Civil Rights landmark, the AG Gaston Motel in Birmingham, AL, working with Lord Aeck Sargent, an architectural and design firm located in Atlanta. The Motel was included in the recent designation of the surrounding areas as the Birmingham Civil Right National Monument, part of the National Parks Service. The National Monument will also include the nearby 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Fourth Avenue Business District. The area was designated a National Monument by President Obama at the end of his Presidency.
The oldest portion of the hotel is from 1954. The site has been vacant for over 20 years, and will be renovated in phases with funds from the city of Birmingham and the National Park Service. The motel and Civil Rights institute will become the new Freedom Center, an educational hub that will focus on the civil rights movement and other cultural topics.
More information on the historic significance of the AG Gaston Motel can be found at the National Trust for Historic Preservation website. The AG Gaston Motel was at the epicenter of Birmingham’s civil rights protests and demonstrations. During the spring of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed in room 30 – a “war room” for the movement’s top leaders. This is where he made the decision to defy a court’s injunction and submit himself to being jailed to show solidarity with local protesters (A.G. Gaston paid the $160,000 bond to release Dr. King from jail). After a violent public conflict with Public Safety Commissioner Bull Conner, which triggered national outrage, Dr. King, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth announced a truce. On May 10, 1963, the press conference announcing the agreement with white business leaders and city officials was held in the Gaston’s courtyard. In response to the agreement, a pair of bombs exploded near King’s room two days later.