During the mid-20th century, the Green Book helped Black Americans to travel by letting them know which hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses it would be safe for them to frequent. As part of our annual thematic focus on sites of midcentury travel and leisure, we are highlighting some of the modern resources that made their way into the Green Book.
A.G. Gaston Motel, Birmingham, Alabama
Prominant businessman and entrepreneur Arthur George Gaston opened the A.G. Gaston Motel in 1954. Designed by Birmingham-based architect Stanley Bryant Echols, the National Park Service describes the motel as "a brick midcentury building composed of a two-story L-shaped corridor that housed visitor accommodations and a one-story wing fronting Fifth Avenue that housed a lobby, coffee shop, and porte cochere . . . The surrounding landscape was characterized by an interior courtyard with a small landscaped island and outdoor furniture; a parking court; a raised brick tree planter with a mature tree likely maintained during construction; a Z-shaped motel sign attached to the top of the west end of the front façade; and planters along the front façade facing the street." The motel was at the center of important civil rights campaigns and protests in the 1950s and 60s that impacted the rest of the nation and it is now part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The motel closed in the 1970s and a restoration project is currently underway.