Completed in 1913 for the Alabama Penny Savings Bank, this building was acquired by the Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias two years later when the bank closed its doors. The building was later acquired by African American entrepreneur A. G. Gaston who is best known as the owner of the hotel that was bombed while Martin Luther King Jr. was staying at the hotel. Gaston operated the Booker T. Washington INsurance Company, an important business at mid-century when African Americans were often unable to secure life insurance from white-owned companies without paying substantially more than white clients. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and became home to the Birmingham History Center for a short time.
Backstory and Context
Established by local citizens in 2004, the Birmingham History Center works to preserve historic buildings and spaces as well as offering museum exhibits that share and interpret the history of the city. The museum opened in April 2010 with the support of donations, including a generous gift from the Thomas E. Jernigan Family Foundation. The museum moved to this location but its museum closed in 2013. The History Center's collections are in storage at the Pythian Building and the organization is searching for a more permanent home as of September 2017. In addition to its office, the History Center maintains newsletters, programs, and a website that includes many images and stories from the city's past.
Homepage. Birmingham History Center. Accessed February 6, 2016. http://www.birminghamhistorycenter.org.