International Civil Rights Center and Museum Historic Preservation and Renovation / The Freelon Group Architects

© Mark Herboth

On February 1st, 1960, four young men from A&T State University entered the F.W. Woolworth department store in downtown Greensboro, and sat at the lunch counter. What followed was a movement that has had a resounding impact across the decades and around the world. The Woolworth building and the lunch counter were the flashpoint for the “Sit-in” movement in the United States. These architectural elements – important historical artifacts – have been restored to form the framework and nucleus of the exhibits at the ICRCM.

Architects: The Freelon Group Architects
Location: Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
General Contractor: Weaver Cooke, Construction, Inc.
Structural/Civil Engineer: Stewart Engineering
MEP Engineer: Harrell, Saltrick & Hopper
Project Area: 45,000 sqf
Photographs: Mark Herboth

© Mark Herboth

The design team worked with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office to identify the significant building elements that would be restored in the new museum. The lunch counter, the art deco staircase that leads to the gallery space and lecture hall on the lower level, the plaster coffered ceilings and the terrazzo floors were all restored and incorporated into the design. Newly constructed elements of the project, while clearly differentiated from the existing architecture, complement and support the historic structures.

© Mark Herboth

The spacious lobby includes a glass enclosed museum shop, a reception counter and a slate wall accented with inset horizontal lighting. This composition creates a contrast with the historic architecture, providing a clearly delineated path down the escalator to the immersive exhibit spaces on the lower level. The visitor experience culminates with a return to the main level where the restored lunch counter is presented. Here, the multi-media driven exhibit puts the historic sit-in into context and offers patrons the opportunity for reflection. In totality, the ICRCM design creates an evocative and powerful blending of the past, present and future.

© Mark Herboth

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Cite: "International Civil Rights Center and Museum Historic Preservation and Renovation / The Freelon Group Architects" 13 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2014. <>

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