Black History Museum to restore Thomasville's own 'Green Book' hotel

By: Noelani Mathews | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 5, 2019

THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) -- A project to restore a historic Thomasville hotel is gaining public attention following the movie, 'Green Book.'

The motion picture is up for several Oscar awards for its historical outlook on the Green Book, a guide that was used for African American travelers during segregation. The book lists places in every state across the country, including one still standing in Thomasville, Georgia.

For many years, the Imperial Hotel has been a nameless building in ruins on West Jackson Street.

"I remember if I didn't see a sign that said 'color, color, color,' I kept driving," said Jack Hadley, owner of Thomasville's Jack Hadley Black History Museum.

During segregation, Hadley says the building provided a safe haven for the African American community.

"Had I known about the Green Book then I could've eliminated a lot of embarrassment because if you stopped at a white hotel you were turned away," said Hadley, recalling long periods of travel with his family.

In the 1950's, the Imperial Hotel was listed in the Green Book, which helped African American travelers looking for food or a place to lay their head.

"I want them to know our history is just as important as the white history. We need to see it all," said Hadley.

The hotel was first featured in his black history museum. Hadley never expected he'd soon help change its fate.

It'll take nearly a million dollars to complete all the renovations, but with the outpouring of community support, Hadley is rising to the challenge. He's already raised $175,000, and is now kicking off the building's very first renovation by fixing the roof.

"It means a whole lot that people rally behind me. I've done my best for Thomasville to make it a better place. I just want to thank everyone. I thank them for helping me," he said.

Hadley is honored to preserve and restore an important part of Thomasville's history. Once renovated, he hopes to fill the space with an exhibit and possibly an upstairs Airbnb or office.

If you'd like to learn more about the hotel or how to donate, click here.

Several local organizations are hosting an event to discuss the Imperial Hotel's history at the Jack Hadley Black History Museum's Bell Library on Alexander Street on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.