A.G. Gaston Building (1959)

A.G. Gaston Building
1527 Fifth Ave. North
Birmingham, Alabama
Date of Construction: 1959
Architect: Perry C. Langston for the Bank Building & Equipment Corp. of America
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, 2000

At a cost of $1.2 million, Birmingham’s premier African-American built and owned commercial building housed prominent businesses in a “lush” environment.  Inside and out, the Perry C. Langston’s design provided cutting-edge design in a city built on classical tradition.  The gleaming glass and green and beige panel, three-story building displayed many of the common elements of the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation’s style, but in new arrangements.  

The first floor appeared largely similar to many banks with floor to ceiling plate glass windows, divided irregularly with stainless steel dividers.  On the two main street façades, the second and third stories show a curtain wall of glass, and colored panels divided by stainless steel.  The pattern here displays very narrow windows but has divisions similar to those used at the Liberty National Bank in Louisville, Kentucky (1955).  In addition, the blue/green color was very popular shade for the Bank Building & Equipment Corp., also being used on Liberty National Bank and Reid and Kernaghan Halls at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri (1961).  The only change on the driveway and rear facades of the building is that instead of a glass first floor, brick is used.

On the interior, the building featured a building-wide inter-communication hookup, air conditioning, piped-in music, pure silk wallpaper in the top executive offices, and employee lounges.  It also boasted beauty with solid oak furnishings, fluorescent lighting, and the most modern office equipment and wall-to-wall carpeting.

Some of the original businesses housed in the building included Citizens Federal Savings and Loan Association, Booker T. Washington Insurance Co., Booker T. Washington Business College, Vulcan Realty and Investment Corp. Inc., and a Walgreens drug store, providing space for 357 employees.  Today, the building is used as offices for the Southwest Athletic Conference.

More information:  Birmingham’s Million Dollar Building, Ebony June 1960

Photo credit: Robin McDonald

Image Gallery