The Thomas Jefferson Hotel and its Mooring Mast was built in 1929 by the Union Realty Company. The 19-story building featured an ornate marble lobby, a large ballroom, and a rooftop mast intended for mooring airships.
In the 1920s and 30s, dirigibles were all the rage. Airships provided some of the earliest commercial transatlantic flights. They were a quicker and cheaper way to travel compared to long voyages by sea. During this era, a number of buildings around the United States installed zeppelin mooring masts, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the new method of transportation. Birmingham’s Thomas Jefferson Hotel was one of these buildings (even though the metal spire on its roof was likely incapable of supporting a large dirigible).
After the Hindenburg disaster of 1937, the popularity of airships quickly faded. In 1950, the top half of the mooring mast was removed altogether. The hotel went through a series of changes over the decades. It was renamed the Cabana Hotel in 1972, and then shut down for most of the 1980s and 90s. In the early 2000s, a plan to renovate the hotel and turn it into condominiums stalled partway through. In 2013, new owners acquired the old hotel and began renovations.
In 2017, the building reopened as Thomas Jefferson Tower. The restoration process included adding back the top portion of the zeppelin mooring mast, 70 years after its removal. The mast is an iconic readdition to Birmingham’s city skyline.
Know Before You Go
The Thomas Jefferson Mooring Mast is located on top of the Thomas Jefferson Tower. It is near the Phoenix Building Lofts and not too far from the Greyhound Bus Station.