North Birmingham

North Birmingham

Come take a little trip back in time to the City of North Birmingham as it existed prior to becoming a part of the City of Birmingham in 1910, along with other surrounding towns like North Highlands, Woodlawn, East Lake, Ensley, Pratt City, and others. Prior to 1910, the Birmingham City limits to the north was bounded by Village Creek. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find memories and stories of life in North Birmingham during these early days. I hope this will be a start. I would like to include your favorite stories and memories of living in North Birmingham in the 30's to the 60's and I think it would make for some interesting reading. Please email or send regular mail, any photos (will return and give credit for use) and your favorite memory(s). Who wants to be next? All submissions will be displayed at the North Birmingham Memories link. Also I have some early Birmingham pictures, including East Lake Park and the old Pickwick Club here. You may also be interested in my old postcards of Panama City as it was in the 1940's and 1950's. Tom Mann sent me a satelite photo of Phillips High School. Of course it isn't an old picture but interesting none the less. You can see it here. Also of particular interest may be a little history of Milo Hamburgers.

The 2009 North Birmingham Calendar is ready and can be seen here. It contains old photo images, some seen here, on each month and on the cover.

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North Birmingham 27th Street, looking from 29th Avenue in Early 1900's

Summary of North Birmingham History

The North Birmingham Land Company was incorporated October 1, 1886 by John W. Johnston, Andrew B. Johnston, and John B. Boddie. John Johnston and his brother Andrew had purchased 900 acres of land to develop north of the City of Birmingham. Other directors included John T. Milner and E.M. Tutwiler, who were engineers for the two railroads that had intersected between Morris Avenue and Powell Avenue to form the City of Birmingham. John Milner moved to the New Castle area near one of the mines he owned. He also donated the lumber for the first school in what is now the Gardedale area. It was named Milner School and was near the current location of Gardendale Elementary School.

The North Birmingham Railway Company was incorporated December 9, 1886. Mount Vernon Church had been located at 34th Avenue and 22nd Street since 1884 and by 1904 it had moved to its most well known location at 34th Avenue and 24th Street. Initially, about twenty families settled in the area.

The first park, known as Mineral Springs Park in 1887, was located at the old North Birmingham Golf Course site. An exclusive gun club had been organized in 1888 and had been having shoots at the Fairgrounds, East Lake Park, Lakeview (Highland) Park, and West End Park (now Kelly Ingram Park).

The North Birmingham Park was built around 1895 at 35th Avenue and 28th Street North. (Note: The streets in North Birmingham were numbered differently then. Thirty-fifth Avenue was First Avenue and the street numbers got larger as you went south toward Birmingham.) The Country Club of Birmingham was incorporated on September 26, 1898 with 77 members at North Birmingham Park. (Note: It is thought by some that the Country Club of Birmingham originated at Mineral Springs Park, site of the former North Birmingham Golf Course, before moving to the current site of North Birmingham Park.) The initiation fee was $35 and dues were 44.50 quarterly. There were 250 people at the opening of the new clubhouse. They came in trolley cars and horse carriages since there were no automobiles at that time. The clubhouse featured wide verandas, men's quarters on one side and women's quarters on the other. A ballroom was in the center with a kitchen located at the back. A nine hole golf course, the first in Jefferson County and designed by Robert H. Baugh, was built behind 28th Place and 35th Avenue, across from North Birmingham Park, opened for play on April 1, 1899. On April 15, 1899, Robert H. Baugh gave a golf exhibition and shot a 58 on the nine hole course. By 1900, the Country Club had 134 members and tennis courts had been built. In 1901, Dimmick Pipe built a plant on the site of the golf course. At this time the Country Club and the Golf Club were two separate organizations. In 1903, they consolidated and became the Country Club of Birmingham. They remained there until a new clubhouse and golf course were built at Highland Park and opened on April 7, 1904. Later, when they moved to their present site in Vestavia, Highland Park became known as Highland/Boswell Golf Course. By the time the City of Birmingham bought North Birmingham Park in 1914 it had tennis courts, dancing pavilion, lake pavilion, driveways, and walks. A swimming pool was built in 1930.

North Birmingham Park Around 1900

The City of North Birmingham was incorporated in 1902 and immediately voted a bond issue to build a water works and electric plant. This was built on Village Creek at the site where Shredders, Inc. was located in the 1980's. The lake, or reservoir, was called Lake Placid. By this time North Birmingham's population was in excess of 2,000 people. (Note: The City of Birmingham purchased this water works and it became the first permanent water supply for the City of Birmingham. When the water from Village Creek became insufficient, a canal was built from the head waters of Five Mile Creek in the eastern part of Jefferson County near Highway 79 and came through Tarrant City past the current Tarrant High School location. That canal has now been filled in and was for many years used as a drainage ditch. Evidence of its existence can still be seen where some of the streets are currenty named Water and Canal. A drive down Jefferson Avenue from Vanderbilt Road traveling east past Tarrant High School toward the Rock Quarry in Tarrant will show signs of the old canal with the open spaces along south side the road.

North Birmingham Water Works Around 1905

The first Mayor of North Birmingham was James L. Cole. The City Hall was located on the northeast corner of 26th Street and 28th Avenue. (Note: Remember, 28th Avenue would then have been 8th Avenue.) He was followed by G.B. Mitchell, T.T. Jones, T.H. Friel, James H. Berry, and T.H. Friel for a second term. The first Fire Chief was Eugene Smith and the first Police Chief was J.B. Cole. The first business district was located on 29th Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets.

These North Birmingham Policemen & Firemen from the Early 1900's are in front of the North Birmingham City Hall, which was located on what is now 28th Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets. At that time it was known as 8th Avenue. (First Avenue started on what is now 35th Avenue and the numbers got larger as you went south) Compare it with a present day picture of the building located further down toward the bottom of this web page.

North Birmingham School was started in a wooden building at the corner of 36th Avenue and 26th Street in what would become the lunchroom for the new brick school built in 1905. James H. Berry was the Mayor when the new school was dedicated in 1905. The cornerstone was removed and placed in the east entranceway of the current building around 1925. This cornerstone, located inside the current school, can be seen today. The first principal was W.H. Naff. In 1911 the principal was William E. Dickson. Of course George D. Cox was the principal for a "thousand years" to all of us who were students there from the 1930s through the 1950s. As a side note, Mr. Cox's first teaching job was at Phillips High School in 1918. Other new teachers of note that year, that we will all remember from Phillips, were Sarah Dryer, Hattie Montgomery, and J.E. Allen.

North Birmingham School in Early 1900's
Old Wooden School on Left First Brick School on Right

George D. Cox in the Auditorium at North Birmingham School
Photo courtesy of Dan Moss

Mr. Cox became principal in 1936 following the death of Rufus Duval, who was killed in a traffic accident while riding with Mr. Snoddy, the principal at ACIPCO School. They were on the way to Mobile to an AEA Convention. A portrait of Mr. Duval is shown on the stage and is being presented to the School.

WPA Sponsored Kindergarten Class at North Birmingham School 1934
Photo courtesy of Dan Moss

North Birmingham had four newspapers. The North Birmingham Star was located at 2917-27th Street, where later the V.J. Elmore Store would be located. The North Birmingham Graphic was a weekly newspaper owned by J.M. Williamson. The North Birmingham Comet was published by W.H. Parker. He had an office in the Title Guarantee Building in Birmingham and a local North Birmingham office at 2624-29th Avenue, which later would house the Barclift Feed Store. The subscription rate was one dollar per year. (Note: The Birmingham Public Library has one issue on microfilm, Vol. 1, No. 41 dated April 18, 1908.) The North Birmingham Herald was located at 2627-32nd Avenue, in the building that would house the U.S. Post Office for many years, and was still being published in August 1936.

By 1902, North Birmingham was an expanding industrial area. The J.K. Dimmick pipe Company was located there on the old site of the Birmingham County Club Golf Course. By 1911 they had 800 employees and produced 250 tons of pipe per day. Also there were the Means-Fulton Iron Works, Southern Cement, Mitchell Planning Mill, Birmingham Hosiery Mills, and the Meighan Brick and Tile Company. From 1921-1923 the Preston Motors Corporation, who built the Premocar automobile, operated Plant No. 2 in North Birmingham at the northwest corner of 27th Avenue and 24th Street No, south across the railroad tracks from Southern Cement. Plant No. 1 was located near North Birmingham on Vanderbilt Road. The American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO) was built nearby in 1905. By 1917 the following industries and facilities were located in North Birmingham.

          North Birmingham Grain                          2331-29th Ave. No.
          North Birmingham Light & Water (Electric Plant) 2325-23rd St. No.
          North Birmingham Masonic Hall                   2600-21st Ave. No.
          North Birmingham School (Colored)               4303-27th Ave. No.
          North Birmingham Post Office                    3002-27th St. No.
          North Birmingham Trust & Savings Bank           2916-27th St. No.
          North Birmingham Water & Light Plant            2803-26th St. No.
          Southern Pipe & Foundry                         2715-25th St. No.

The first Post Office was at 2616-29th Avenue. By 1917 it had been moved to 3002-27th Street. Of course the most remembered location was at 32nd Avenue between 27th and 26th Streets.

North Birmingham was the only community in the area that had two movie theatres. The North Birmingham Theatre (located on 30th Avenue between 26th Street and 27th Street) and the Delmar Theatre (located on 27th Street between 30th Avenune and 31st Avenue). At one time it the City of North Birmingham considered an attempt to annex the City of Birmingham.

More Pictures of Early North Birmingham

North Birmingham Theatre

North Birmingham Main Street
Same as Earlier View Except in 1944

North Birmingham Library (First Branch Built 1926)

North Birmingham Fire Station

Old Bridge from North Birmingham to Fairmont
Built 1912 over Southern RR and Mineral Branch of L&N RR Tracks

Twenty-Fourth Street Over Village Creek with Sloss Furnace in Background 1901
(Roads not needed since there were no cars, only streetcars)

Twenty-Fourth Street Past Golf Course Toward Sayreton

North Birmingham Park with Gus's in Backgound Across Street
(Photo courtesy of David Worsham)

American Lunch Room Located at North Birmingham Park
(Also seen in background of previous photo above)

North Birmingham Park Swimming Pool in Snow
(Photo courtesy of David Worsham)

Sayreton School 1924
(Photo courtesy of Shirley Lacey Davis)

North Birmingham Park-Pet Show
(Photo courtesy of Shirley Lacey Davis)

Our Gang Movie Filmed at North Birmingham Park 1940s-Recognize Anyone?
(Photo courtesy of Kermit Dooley)

Ed Salem's Drive Inn (Close to North Birmingham)

The North Birmingham City Hall as it looks today. The roof has caved in and the building probably wont last much longer. I wonder how many of the current residents of North Birmingham even realize what it is. Compare it to the picture toward the top of this web site with the Policemen and Fireman out front. Notice the rounded window at the right front and the rectangular door to the left of the fire truck in the other photo. Also note the HADACOL sign on the side of the building!


There have been visitors since February 25, 2002.

2002-2008 jd@jdweeks. com

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