Exterior of Carver Theatre

The Historic Carver Theatre

The Early Years

Opening in 1935 as a movie house, the Carver Theatre was a hub for nightlife in segregated Birmingham’s Black Business District. Located on bustling Fourth Avenue North, the theatre was one of few screening first-run films for African-American audiences in the era of Jim Crow. It thrived for years, surviving the turmoil of the 1960s. But it could not survive integration, the White Flight into the suburbs, and resulting economic depression in the city’s center. The Carver closed in the early 1980s.


Exterior of Carver-1949
Carver Theatre, 1949 (Birmingham Public Library)

Interior of AJHOF Museum-2015
Jazz Museum, 2015 (Tommy Daspit Photography)

A New Life for the Carver, a Home for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame

In 1990, the City of Birmingham purchased the building with hopes of revitalizing the Fourth Avenue District. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, created in 1978 to promote Alabama’s jazz legacy, took over operations of the Carver in 1993. A jazz museum was installed, along with a refurbished performance hall that could show movies as well as host stage performances. The venue attracted some of the top acts in jazz, including Terence Blanchard, Joe Sample and Diana Krall. The Carver also hosted future jazz superstars such as Esperanza Spalding and Joey Alexander. And the theatre was a favorite stop for the renowned Birmingham Sidewalk Film Festival. Meanwhile, the museum was drawing tourists from around the globe, joining other landmarks in the Civil Rights District in telling a richer story of Alabama’s struggles and perseverance throughout its complex history.


The Carver, Reimagined

More than 25 years after the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame made its home in the Carver, the Board of Directors knew it was time to modernize the facility. Fueled by a city investment of more than $4 million dollars, the AJHF called upon Studio 2H Design (Regions Field, West End Academy) and architect Creig Hoskins to bring the building into the 2020s. Along with architect Gary Nash, Hoskins’ design created hundreds more square feet of functional office and museum space, improved theatre seating, sightlines and acoustics, enhanced safety and accessibility, and created a beautiful space in which to work, visit and perform. A demolition of the Carver interior began in 2019, and in May 2020, Stone Building Company began reconstructing the Carver.

Interior of Carver following demolition
The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame office and museum area was rebuilt from floor to roof
Interior of Carver auditorium during renovation
Inside the theatre, seats were replaced, a new control booth was added, and the balcony was regraded for better viewing

Since 1993, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame has steered the direction of the venue’s development, presenting original, educational programming as well as community services.

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