Modern Travel & Leisure Resources from the Green Book


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Travel & Leisure, Diversity of Modernism
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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. 


Hampton House, Miami, Florida

The Hampton House originally opened in 1954 as the Booker Terrace Motel. Architect Robert Karl Frese designed the 50-room motel in the Miami Modern style, similar to the popular resorts in Miami Beach such as the Eden Roc and Fountainbleau, designed by Morris Lapidus. In 1961, it was purchsed and reoped by Harry and Florence Markowitz. In 1964, when Muhammad Ali became the heavyweight world champion after defeating Sonny Liston, he was not allowed to stay in Miami Beach due to segregation laws and instead stayed at the Hampton House. The motel was patronized by many prominent members of the Black community including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson. The building underwent complete restoration in 2015. In 2018 Inspicio Arts conducted interviews with people who grew up in the Brownsville area and recorded their memories of the motel.

Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Moulin Rouge (or "Rouge" as it was called) opened off the Las Vegas Strip in 1955 led by several white investors including Vester Heath, Los Angeles real-estate baron Alexander Bisno and New York restaurateur Louis Rubin. Boxer Joe Louis was given a share in the business in exchange for acting as the greeter. They advertised it as "America’s First Interracial Hotel" (more accurately it was the first in the state). According to SAH Archipedia, the hotel was designed by Zick and Sharp of Las Vegas and consists of one-story casino and theater attached to a two-story, V-shaped hotel to the west. The sign was designed by neon artist Betty Willis, who later designed the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, in "elegant looping French script in the popular Googie style." The Rouge was popular but lasted only five months before it was unceremoniusly shut down. In 1960, it was the site of a historic meeting that officially ended segregation in Las Vegas. The Rouge never regained its former glory. Over the years it suffered a number of fires and eventually it was demolished. The sign is housed at the Neon Museum. Read more about the Moulin Rouge in this recent article from Las Vegas Weekly and in this interview with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Esso Service Stations

The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, known today as ExxonMobil, was the only major retail distributor of the Green Book through its network of Esso stations, which welcomed Black travelers and also provided business opportunities for Black franchisees. More than a third of Esso dealers in the 1940s were Black and the company employed Black people in other roles such as chemists, pipeline workers, mariners and other professional positions. Victor Green partnered with James A. Jackson, an African-American marketing executive at Esso. Green printed an article in the 1939 edition about Jackson’s appointment at Esso, and Jackson ensured that all Esso stations throughout the country sold the Green Book, giving it a nationwide reach. Source: National Park Service.

Fiesta Motel, Jacksonville, Florida

The Fiesta Motel was a motel for Black travelers when it opened in 1961 with 26 air conditioned rooms, each with television and telephone. The old motel is now the 1251 Efficiency Apartments at 1251 Kings Road. Source: The Jaxson Mag.

La Dale Motel, Los Angeles, California

The La Dale Motels and Hotels were the business venture of one Jack Lauderdale. Lauderdale founded Downbeat Record Store in the late 1940s (later the name was changed to Swing Time Records in the 1950s). Lauderdale and Swing Time, along with John Dolphin’s legendary shop, Dolphin Records, had been central pillars in the jazz and R&B scene in LA in the 1950s. The La Dale was much more than a little motel in the landscape, it was part of the whole fabric of the music scene in 50s Los Angeles that would influence the evolution of post-war jazz. Source: Mapping the Green Book.

Davy Jones Seafood House, New York, New York

Although many of the sites featured so far have been in southern states, the location of Green Book sites was actually skewed more north, especially in New York and New Jersey, where the author Victor Green lived and worked. Davy Jones Seafood House was one of many white-owned New York City restaurants featured in the 1962 edition, reflecting the changing tide of opinion as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. While the building may not have been modern, we love the classic midcentury interior design. Source: Restaurant-ing through history.


Unfortunately, many Green Book sites have already been lost. Docomomo US will continue to try to identify and document modern resources included in the Green Book and to raise awareness of the need to preserve these significant places. 

If you would like to submit a site for inclusion on the Explore Modern register, click here