Place

A.G. Gaston Motel

Gaston Motel sign lights up the evening sky in downtown Birmingham, AL
Gaston Motel sign lights up the evening sky in downtown Birmingham, AL

City of Birmingham

Quick Facts

Cellular Signal, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board, Parking - Auto, Picnic Table, Playground, Trash/Litter Receptacles

The A.G. Gaston Motel, built by prominent African American businessman and entrepreneur, Arthur George (A.G.) Gaston (1892-1996), provided first-class lodging and dining in Birmingham, Alabama, to African American travelers from 1954 onwards.

During the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) took up residence in the A.G. Gaston Motel. From April through May of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph D. Abernathy, Fred L. Shuttlesworth, and others gathered in Room 30, also known as the "War Room," to plan and strategize. Besides resting and strategizing, the hotel was the site of constant activity associated with the campaign, including press conferences held regularly within the courtyard that were extensively documented and broadcast by journalists.

A.G. Gaston modernized and expanded the motel in 1968, adding a supper club and other amenities. Business declined in the 1970s and in 1982 Gaston converted the motel into housing for the elderly, which functioned until 1996. 

The property was vacant until 2017, when it was declared a key feature of Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The building is co-owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and the City of Birmingham. The partners intend to renovate the building so that it appears as it did during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign. As of Spring 2021, exterior renovations of the NPS-owned portion of the building are complete, including installation of a Gaston Motel sign. Visitors are welcome to sight-see around the exterior of the Motel. Plans for interior renovation are underway.