PO Box 993, Birmingham, AL 35201
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, our mission is to purchase the building, restore it to operating conditions, and lease the building to operating partners and independent companies. The impact of the non-profit will be much larger than one building, the funds from the leases will be used to provide grants for future restoration in Birmingham. Our long-term plan accounts for over 15 separate buildings, including helping restore Birmingham’s historic Lyric Theater.
With a growing loft community, new restaurants, the new baseball stadium, and the proposed foot bridge connecting Railroad Park to the Northside, there is tremendous momentum in downtown Birmingham’s resurgence. Let’s keep the momentum alive by restoring this Birmingham landmark.
The Thomas Jefferson Hotel (later the Cabana Hotel, then Leer Tower) is a 20-story building, formerly a 350-room hotel, completed in 1929 at 1631 2nd Avenue North on the western side of downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Designed by architect David O. Whilldin, the Thomas Jefferson stood as one of Birmingham’s most luxurious hotels. It featured an ornate marble lobby, a large ballroom, and a rooftop mooring mast intended for use by airships. “Southern charm and hospitality at its happy best, wonderful best. That’s the pride of Birmingham The Hotel Thomas Jefferson,” an early newspaper ad boasted. Bill Muellenbach was a 23-year-old bellboy in 1936, when he says the hotel was tightly supervised by a “snobby” manager and his wife. And while management was not at the top of employee popularity lists, Muellenbach concedes that the hotel was a showplace with unparalleled amenities. And when the employees were not carrying luggage and serving guests, they operated a popular side business at the hotel. In the age of Prohibition, clever methods were used to meet the needs of thirsty guests. Muellenbach says he would buy his “Pensacola rye” from the nearby police station to sell to hotel guests. The ballroom and dining rooms on the second floor opened out onto roof terraces from which the main tower rose. A Corinthian colonnade in glazed white terra-cotta set off the base of the tower, with the hotel entrance marked by a metal canopy. The fourth floor created an entablature, punctuated by the rhythm of windows that continued in brick for 13 more floors. The tower was capped on the top two floors with ornamented terra-cotta, including a balustrade and arched deep-set openings. The corners of the tower were clad in white brick to provide visual supports for the upper portion of the tower, while the narrow strips of brick between the windows were tan in color, each capped with a white acanthus leaf at the top. The edge of each corner was softened with a twisted-rope moulding, rising to a sculpted satyr at the top. The cornice rests on tightly-spaced brackets with a shallow overhang of red mission tile suggesting a sloped roof.