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The Alabama Air National Guard and the Bay of Pigs Invasion


Between October 1960 and April 1961, approximately 80 members of the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Alabama Air National Guard, took leave from their unit to volunteer as B-26 bomber advisors to the Cuban Liberation Air Force in support of an invasion attempt to topple dictator Fidel Castro. On April 19th, 1961, in a gesture of solidarity with their Cuban-exile pilot trainees, three 2-ship B-26 formations, including 4 volunteers from the 117th, took off from Nicaragua to give aerial support to the Cuban Liberation Air Force and the invading forces of Brigade 2506, also comprised of Cuban exiles. Two pilots of the 117th perished in the Bay of Pigs operation when their B-26's were shot down by Communist T-33's.

The Altamont Apartments


Built during the Roaring Twenties, the Altamont Apartments broke ground in 1924 and were completed in 1925.  Designed by architect Jacob E. Sallie as an apartment/hotel, they were built to attract affluent businessmen who desired luxury, comfort, privacy, and a wholesome environment for their families, as well as accessibility to the city’s commercial district.  Planned as a community for its residents to experience the pleasures of luxury apartment living, many amenities were available on-site, including full plumbing and telephone service (rare features in 1920s apartments), a ballroom, and a full-service restaurant.


The Birmingham Public Library (Side 1)


Birmingham’s first library was organized in 1886 and in 1891 became a subscription library for the general public. In 1908 the Birmingham Public Library Association established a free public library, and the City created an independent Library Board in 1913. For decades the library was housed in various locations including the old City Hall where it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Libraries throughout the U.S. sent books and local citizens contributed for a new building. It opened April 11, 1927, was peacefully desegregated in 1963, served as the main library until 1984, and was renovated and reopened in 1985 as the Linn-Henley Research Library.


The Linn-Henley Research Library (Side 2)


This four-story Neo-Classical structure, designed by architects Miller, Martin, & Lewis, was built of Indiana limestone in 1927. A model facility when completed, the library served as a cornerstone of Birmingham’s cultural and educational development. The building was renovated in 1984 by architects Kidd, Plosser, & Sprague and renamed the Linn-Henley Research Library. Special collections housed here include extensive southern history resources, maps, and the city’s first municipal archives. Significant interior features include murals and decorative ceilings painted and installed in the 1920s by nationally known artist Ezra Winter.

The Cahaba
Heart River of Alabama


On Cahaba Mountain to the NW, springs form a fragile stream that grows as it carves through the steep, rocky terrain of Birmingham suburbs, flowing south on the Gulf Coastal Plain to the Alabama River, at the site of Alabama’s first capital, Cahawba. The Cahaba has sustained human life at least 10,000 years and remains a major drinking water source. It is known nationally for biological diversity and beauty and, at 191 miles, is Alabama’s longest free flowing river. It nurtures 69 rare, imperiled aquatic species & the largest stand of shoals lilies on Earth.


Thomas McAdory Owen (1866-1920)

Thomas McAdory Owen, son of Dr. William Marmaduke Owen and Nancy Lucretia McAdory Owen, was born here on December 15, 1866, at the home of his maternal grandparents, Thomas and Emily McAdory. A University of Alabama graduate and lawyer, Owen served Jefferson County as justice of the peace and later assistant county solicitor. In 1893, he married Marie Bankhead, daughter of U.S. Congressman John Hollis Bankhead. Owen authored legislation which ultimately led to the creation of the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History in
1901,  and served as director until his death on March 25, 1920. Thomas McAdory Owen is a descendant of Revolutionary War soldier Richardson Owen. 

[227 Eastern Valley Road, McCalla]   


Cahaba Project
"Slagheap Village"


A government project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt

A total of 243 houses and 44 duplex units were constructed from 1936-1938 at an overall cost of $2,661,981.26. Cahaba residents rented from the government until 1947, when the houses and duplexes were sold to individuals at prices ranging from $4,400 to $9,000 each.

First Baptist Church of Trussville


Organized at Cahawba Baptist Church, 1821. Elder Sission Blythe, pastor. Anderson Robertson, Sherwood Holley, deacons. John Stovall, Jordan Williams, trustees. Members of Canaan (now Birmingham) Baptist Association since its beginning in 1833. This marker dedicated at the church's 140th Anniversary, July 16, 1961.


Highlands School


Evalina Brown Spencer founded Highlands Day School in 1958, expanding a daycare she operated in her family’s backyard. In 1962, Highlands moved from rented space in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to this site, on land donated by Joseph and Virginia Simpson. The early campus consisted of four buildings. Expansions in 1991, 1997, and 2019 added an auditorium, library, offices, a gymnasium, cafeteria, and classrooms. Students range from infants to eighth grade. Alumni remember school traditions fondly, including Blue Devils athletics, public speaking, gatherings on the quad, and time spent on the “Big Rock” located on campus.
[4901 Old Leeds Road,


The Attempted Bombing of Congregation Beth-El

Congregation Beth-El was founded in 1907 on Birmingham’s north side. Its leadership came from Knesseth Israel, the city’s Orthodox Jewish congregation. Beth-El was established as a modern, yet traditional congregation. Construction on the synagogue at this site began in 1926, with the addition of an education wing in 1952. By the 1950s, Beth-El was Alabama’s largest Conservative Jewish congregation.

On Monday, April 28, 1958, a satchel containing 54 sticks of dynamite was placed along the eastern exterior of the synagogue’s lower floor. The bomb failed before it could detonate. Had the bomb exploded, the blast would have demolished the building. Part of a series of unsolved antisemitic attacks against Jewish institutions in the South in the 1950s, the attempted bombing of Beth-El came amidst a plague of racial terror during Birmingham’s modern Civil Rights era.

Although Congregation Beth-El received sympathy and support from across Birmingham and beyond, the crime remained unsolved. In the bombing’s wake, reaction within the local Jewish community ranged from fear to a determination to confront bigotry and intolerance amidst the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. 
[To be located at 2179 Highland Avenue, Birmingham] 


Hosea Holcombe 1780-1841


"Alabama's first church historian." In 1840 he published his study, History of Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama. Also an evangelist and missionary. In 1818 moved to Alabama from Carolinas, organizing five churches in vicinity. President of Alabama Baptist Convention 1833-38, he was delegated to write church history. Lack of cooperation led him to travel over state to get material for book. He died at Jonesboro home in 1841, buried in Sadler Cemetery 1 mile south.

 Jefferson County Courthouses (Side 1)


Territorial legislature designated home of Maj. Moses Kelly (in Jones Valley) as site of first court in this area of Alabama, 1818.
After creation of Jefferson County, 1819, court held at Carrolsville (Powderly) until county seat established at Elyton, 1820.
County seat moved to Birmingham, 1873. Two story brick Courthouse completed 1875 on NE corner 3rd Ave. and 21st St., North. Replaced 1887 by elaborate three story structure which served county until 1931. Separate Bessemer Division of Circuit Court established 1915. Bessemer Courthouse completed 1920.


(Side 2)

Present courthouse completed 1931. Designed by Holabird and Root of Chicago. Constructed of reinforced concrete faced with granite and limestone. North Annex built 1964.
Sculptured reliefs on west face depicting history of Jefferson County by Leo Friedlander. Murals in west foyer representing "Old South" and "New South" by John Norton.
Bronze statues of Thomas Jefferson by Birmingham artist George Bridges.


Jefferson County Courthouse Site (Side 1)


The county seat of Jefferson County was moved from Elyton to Birmingham in 1873. On this site stood the first Courthouse in the City of Birmingham. The Italianate style structure was designed by architect W.K. Ball. Completed in 1875, the two-story red brick building cost $30,500. In 1887 it was condemned as unsafe, and a new Courthouse was planned.



Jefferson County Courthouse Site (Side 2)

In 1889 a second Jefferson County Courthouse was constructed on this site. Charles Wheelock and Sons of Birmingham and H. Wolters of Louisville were the architects. Charles Pearce of Indianapolis was contractor. Constructed in the Romanesque style, the four-story brick building had a central clock tower rising 180 feet. Total cost was $300,000. This Courthouse was built several blocks to the north. The structure was raised in 1937.

Jefferson Warriors


In honor of the men from Mt. Pinson who formed the "Jefferson Warriors" in mid-July, 1861. Marching to Huntsville, they were mustered into the Confederate army on August 12th as Company C of the Nineteenth Alabama Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Joseph Wheeler. Engaged in momentous battles at Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta, Nashville, and Bentonville, N.C., the 19th suffered such losses that only 76 members of this Regiment were present at the surrender in April, 1865.
[2000: Pinson]


Jordan Home

Dr. Mortimer Harvie Jordan and his wife, Florence E. Mudd, constructed their home between 1906 and 1908. After service in the Confederate army, Jordan studied medicine in Cincinnati and New York (under Alabama's famous gynecologist, Dr. J. Marion Sims). As a doctor in Jefferson County, he is especially remembered for his tireless work in the 1873 cholera epidemic. He served on the State Board of Health (1879-83), as president of the State Medical Association (1884), and as chair of material medical and therapeutics and clinical medicine in the Medical College of Alabama at Mobile (1886 for two terms). Jordan authorized numerous publications on surgery, epidemiology, and gynecology and read many papers on these subjects before medical association. Florence Mudd Jordan was the daughter of Judge William S. Mudd, builder of Arlington plantation.
The Jordan home was sold in 1928 and was restored to its original condition in 1969. A fine example of neo-classic architecture, the house features a wide portico with four Ionic columns and elaborate detail work on the pediment.



Birmingham-Southern College


Created in 1918 on this site by merger of two colleges; Southern University a Methodist college founded in 1856 at Greensboro. Birmingham College founded by Methodists as N. Alabama Conference College on this site in 1898.


Oxmoor Iron Furnaces 1863-1928


Fire blast furnace in Jefferson County erected near this site (1863) by Red Mountain Coal & Iron Co. Destroyed (1865) by Federal troops: rebuilt (1873) and second furnace added. Successful experimental run made in Furnace No. 2 (1876) using local coke and Red Mountain iron ore: this assured future growth of coal and iron industry in Birmingham area. Owned by a succession of companies, the furnaces were acquired by U.S. Steel Corp. (1907) and later dismantled (1928).



Pioneer Massey Cemetery


Samuel Massey and his brother-in-law, Duke William Glenn, first came to this Territory in February 1814 with Lt. Col. Reuben Nash’s Regt. South Carolina Volunteer Militia to help defeat the Creek Indians in the War of 1812. Samuel Massey returned to settle this land months before Alabama became a state on December 14, 1819. Samuel’s son, William Duke Massey, married Ruth Reed, daughter of William ‘Silver Billy’ Reed. Born October 28, 1817, she was the first white girl born in Jefferson County.

Roebuck Springs Historic District


Roebuck Springs was the first large residential suburb in Birmingham where planning and development were tied to the automobile, and the first community in the city associated with a golf course development. The 1910 land plan was designed to complement the steep, rolling topography, reminiscent of narrow country lanes in rural England. The use of local native stones unified the diverse architectural styles--Craftsman, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival--and contributed to the natural, distinctive feel of the community. Roebuck Springs is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Ruhama Baptist Church


Constituted in 1819 by pioneer settlers in Territory of Alabama. Oldest church in Birmingham Baptist Association. Elder Hosea Holcombe served as first pastor. First meeting house was log cabin. Present building is on fourth site.


Samford University


Multiple purpose Christian university founded 1842 as Howard College by Alabama Baptists at Marion. Moved to East Lake, Birmingham, 1887. Established on this campus 1957. Acquired Cumberland School of Law, Lebanon, Tennessee 1961. College rechartered 1965 as Samford University in honor of Frank Park Samford and his family.


School of Medicine


Opened as Alabama Medical College in 1859 in Mobile by Josiah C. Nott and other physicians as part of the University of Alabama. Closed by the Civil War in 1861, it reopened in 1868. Reorganized in 1897, it became the Medical Department and in 1907 the School of Medicine of the University of Alabama. The Mobile School was closed and moved to Tuscaloosa in 1920 as a two-year basic medical science program, which was offered through 1944.

The Medical College of Alabama opened in Birmingham with a four-year program in 1945 and became the School of Medicine in 1969. The Medical Center gradually emerged as other schools were established: Dentistry 1948, Nursing 1966, Optometry and Community and Allied Health 1969, and Public Health 1981. The Medical Center and University College, which evolved out of The University of Alabama Extension Center established in 1935, formed the nucleus of The University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1966.


Site of Howard College 1887-1957

In the four block area south of this point Howard College developed a campus, 1887-1957. Founded 1842 by Alabama Baptists at Marion. Relocated 1957 on a site in Shades Valley, Birmingham, ten miles west. Rechartered 1965 as Samford University in honor of Frank Park Samford and his family.

Howard College
(Now Samford University)

Founded in 1841 at Marion in Perry County by Alabama Baptists, Howard College was named for British prison reformer John Howard.

The liberal arts college moved to this site in 1887 and relocated to its present campus in Homewood, Alabama in 1957. It was renamed Samford University in 1965.


Sweet Home (Side 1)


This house was built in 1906 by architect William E. Benns for H.W. Sweet at a cost of $10,000. The house uniquely blended the Queen Anne and Neo-Classical architectural styles, featuring two identical pedimented entrance porticos supported by fluted Composite-order columns, full-length wrap around porches on the first and second stories, and an octagonal corner tower. H.W. Sweet (1866-1919), a native of South Carolina, was Bessemer’s first undertaker and a furniture merchant. Henry W. Sweet (1902-1990) was his and Mattie Breen Sweet’s (1865-1946) only child. Henry married Lucile Lytle (1902-1986) in 1925.


Henry W. Sweet  (Side 2)


Henry Wilson Sweet (1902-1990) contributed greatly to the economic, political and civic life of Alabama, Jefferson County, and Bessemer. As Jefferson County Commissioner, he helped bring the University of Alabama Medical Center to Birmingham, signing the deed conveying land and the Hillman - Jefferson Hospital Complex to UAB. Sweet was Director of the Alabama and Georgia State Docks and a candidate for Governor in 1954. While he was Alabama Docks Director, Mobile achieved its highest ever U.S. ports ranking. He also served as Treasurer of the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County, President of the American Association of Ports Authorities, and an International Director of Lions Clubs.

Tannehill Ironworks


Established 1829 with forge built on Roupes Creek (one mile south) by Daniel Hillman. First blast furnace built on site in 1850's by Moses Stroup. Two other furnaces erected in 1863 by William Sanders to provide iron for Confederate Arsenal at Selma. The only three-furnace ironworks in Alabama during Civil War, Tannehill was one of the largest producers of iron in Confederacy. Ceased operations after being partially destroyed by Federal troops March 31, 1865. Named for one of former owners, Ninion Tannehill. Also known as Roupes Valley Ironworks and Sanders Ironworks.                                                                                       


United States Pipe and Foundry Company


On March 3, 1899, the United States Pipe and Foundry Company was incorporated consolidating 14 iron and steel foundries in 9 states. One of these foundries, the Howard-Harrison Iron Company of Bessemer, was founded in 1889. In 1911, the Dimmick Pipe Company, located in North Birmingham, became part of the company. U.S. Pipe led the industry with its introduction of the deLavaud centrifugal casting technology in 1921. The process revolutionized the U.S. pipe-making industry and remained the standard production technology over 75 years later. In 1952, U.S. Pipe merged with Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron Company, founded in 1881, then relocated to this site in 1953. A subsidiary of Walter Industries of Tampa, Florida, U.S. Pipe remains an industry leader as the largest producer of Ductile Iron Pipe in the United States.

Vestavia Hills Baptist Church (Side 1)


Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, constituted May 6, 1957, first met at Vestavia Hills City Hall. The church purchased the George Ward estate in 1958. On the property was Ward’s home, “Vestavia,” a replica of a Roman temple built in the 1920s; a restaurant addition of the 1940s; and the Temple to Sybil. As the original structure deteriorated and church membership grew, the congregation razed Ward’s home, gave Sybil to the city, and built the present structure, completed in 1972.


George Ward (Side 2)
1867 - 1940


George Ward, born in Georgia, moved to Birmingham (1871) where his family operated the city’s first hotel, the Relay House. A successful businessman, he also was elected as a Birmingham alderman (1899), mayor (1904-10), and president of the Birmingham City Commission (1913-17). Ward was a progressive urban reformer who, as mayor, oversaw the construction of libraries, playgrounds, parks, and community centers, and improved services to Birmingham’s African American community. “Vestavia,” the home Ward built on Shades Mountain overlooking Birmingham, was modeled on the Roman Temple of the Vestal Virgins, and was surrounded by elaborate gardens.
[2007: Vestavia Dr., Birmingham]


Wilson's Raiders


Headquarters March 28-31, 1865. Gen. James H. Wilson, USA, having crossed the Tennessee River with a large force of well equipped cavalry, grouped them here at Elyton. Their mission: to destroy Alabama's economic facilities for supporting the War. From these headquarters he sent; (a) cavalry unit to burn the military school, foundries and bridges at Tuscaloosa. (b) soldiers to destroy mines and furnaces in Jefferson, Bibb, and Shelby Counties. (c) cavalry to dash south to destroy railroads and factories at Selma.

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