The Prince Hall Legacy Foundation of Alabama was recently awarded a $670,000 grant by the Mellon Foundation to preserve artifacts and memorabilia from the historic Masonic Temple in the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument District.
The grant will be used over 24 months to support work to organize and archive materials, along with collecting and creating publicly available oral histories and revolving exhibits that will be in the lobby and archives room of the restored Prince Hall Masonic Temple.
The century-old historic building in downtown Birmingham is undergoing a $29 million renovation to create a state-of-the-art, sustainable, or “green” commercial office, restaurant, and event facility.
Historic District Developers, LLC is managing the renovation project while working with the Prince Hall Masons’ preservation committee to ensure that items from the building are carefully authenticated, preserved, and cataloged.
Prince Hall Legacy Foundation President Col (ret) Gregory L. Clark said the Mellon grant would allow the foundation to properly preserve artifacts and oral histories from the Masonic community and the community at large. Some verified, donated memorabilia will become part of this preservation effort.
“Our foundation can continue with a heightened level of excitement, inclusion, and engagement as we ramp up preservation,” Clark said. “We now know how our Masonic Temple founders felt over 100 years ago, knowing they were creating educational and economic impact for current and future generations. The Mellon Foundation will forever have our utmost appreciation.”
The Masonic Temple sits in the heart of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument District at the corner of 4th Avenue North and 17th Street. It was completed in 1924 and housed the Alabama Headquarters for the Prince Hall Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star. Dozens of offices of notable African American professionals, civil rights organizations, and businesses were located inside.
Historic District Developers Project Manager Llevelyn Rhone said, “The renovation of the building provides an opportunity to preserve black cultural history and restore significant physical artifacts and history unique to the Masonic Temple. Preservation of these artifacts, their exhibition, and public access utilizing digitization and technology will help restore public memory by chronicling social and political movements, including the labor and civil rights movements.”
“With this grant, the Prince Hall Masons in Alabama, which once had well over 30,000 members, will allow our foundation to assist in organizing our archival materials further and creating oral histories that will be beneficial to the organization as well as the African American community for many years to come,” said Grand Master Dr. Corey D. Hawkins, Sr. Esq. “We are so thankful for the award and the opportunity to preserve our rich fraternal history and a significant part of American history.”