By Lenah Allen
THOMASVILLE – The Imperial Hotel in Thomasville was one of 10 locations on this year’s Places in Peril list, announced annually by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Imperial Hotel was built in 1949 and functioned as an exclusive stopover for African-American travelers. It was also one of 10 hotels listed in an African-American travel guide known as the Green Book.
After the hotel closed in 1969, the property continued to function as offices and for a short time as the headquarters of a section of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People until it was abandoned. in 2001.
In 2018, Jack Hadley, founder of the Black History Museum, purchased the Imperial Hotel with funding provided by Thomasville Landmarks and has since begun efforts to preserve the historic property of the Thomsville community.
Nancy Tinker, executive director of Thomasville Landmarks, sought wider recognition for Imperial Hotel when she nominated the property for the annual Georgia Trust award.
“The Imperial Hotel tells a very important story about a particular era in the history of Thomasville and certainly the story of our African American community,” she said. “As with so many things, the building has lost its visibility to the public due to COVID and the building’s nomination seemed the right approach to increase the site’s importance to the public.”
Mark McDonald, President and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, endorsed Tinker’s appointment as he noted that the importance of the hotel’s history was what made it worthy of this year’s list. .
“We felt that this was a really valuable historic site that we wanted to start a partnership with to try to take this building from danger to being saved,” he said.
With this new partnership, McDonald’s hopes to provide resources and raise public awareness that will generate funds to help continue rehabilitation efforts.
Hadley described the good news as another achievement of a lifetime to put the hotel back on the map.
“I am very happy to be selected from among the many sites in Georgia,” he said. “It means a lot to Thomasville. It is a great honor for all of us.
With the help of architecture students from Florida A&M University and business consultants from Atlanta, plans are being made to transform the hotel into an Airbnb that will include four upstairs bedrooms, a kitchen and a downstairs dining room and a barber shop exhibit that will feature two of the original chairs used in the 1940s.
The original hotel had eight rooms, a hairdresser, a restaurant, and shared bathrooms.
The rehabilitation project will cost more than $ 2 million and could take up to two years to raise funds and build the new model, according to Hadley.
“It’s a huge project for Thomasville,” said Hadley. “I want to see this thing really blossom to the end.”
Alvon Lewis, the last surviving brother who built the Imperial Hotel, remembers a little boy watching his two older brothers build the foundation for the hotel while Lewis and his twin brother helped with the labor work. artwork.
Years later, Lewis said he was proud to hear that people are fighting to preserve the hard work of his brothers.
“It makes me feel good,” he said. “It’s a monument in the family that everyone is proud of.