Let's go back in time to downtown Birmingham. The Thomas Jefferson Hotel was a city jewel. It was known for its luxurious interior and famous visitors. Today, the building is all but in ruin.
A new group is called Thomas Jefferson Tower Inc wants to restore the Thomas Jefferson Hotel. Groups president says, when we let structures like this deteriorate, we lose pieces of history.
"This is the largest and really historically important building left in Birmingham that's in a state like this. It's abandoned for more than 28 years and it's just in a really sad state," said
Matthew Sheets, president of TJT Inc. His goal is to return this hotel to what it once was. Between the roaring 20s and the flower power 60s this was the place to be.
"It has a lot of that design that really doesn't happen anymore. I mean, the crown molding you see on the first few floors were actually done by German immigrants," said Sheets.
Built in 1929, the Thomas Jefferson Hotel was simply luxurious. And it drew plenty of big names.
"Two past presidents have stayed here, bear Bryant kept a suite here for games a legion field. Mickey Rooney has stayed here, ray Charles," said Sheets.
After decades, a couple of name changes, and a failed attempt to turn the building into apartments, the 20-story building lost its luster. And it was deemed uninhabitable. But sheets and his group are trying to turn that around.
"Our goal would be to restore it back to a hotel and have it as an operating boutique hotel with around 100 rooms," he said.
The organization has even received a nod of approval form Birmingham City Council member Jonathan Austin for their efforts. But Austin admits it will take more than good intentions to restore the building.
"I think it should be something that we consider as we're trying to restore and revitalize downtown. Right now I know there are some individuals considering purchasing the property, but there is going to need to be a substantial amount of investment,"
And that's where sheet's group may run into a challenge. The building is on the market. A representative from Watts Realty says a California-based company has shown interest, and they've already taken preliminary steps to acquire the prompter.
Their idea? condominium homes. Not exactly what sheets would like to see. But he admits it's better than this.
"Anything that happens to the building other than it sitting here abandoned and falling apart is better. Of course, I would like to see it restored back to its original purpose,"
TJT Inc has been in touch with the owners and realtors, but haven't made offers yet. Sheets says the organization has been in touch with a donor who offered to make a large enough donation to purchase and restore the building.