Case History of Birmingham, Alabama

Case History of Birmingham, Alabama

A report from Alabama.

By WALTER L. MAZART, Evangelist, Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, known variously as the Magic City and as the Industrial City Beautiful, is the county seat of Jefferson. County, with an altitude of 700 to 1,045 feet, near the navigable Warrior River. It is 98 miles north of Montgom­ery, the capital of Alabama. This industrial city is on several railroads, nine of which are trunk lines, and tWo are local lines. It is a port of entry of the 19th (Mobile) customs district. Port Bir­mingham provides water transportation to the Gulf of Mexico. Through its modern municipal airport, the city has air-line service—passenger, mail, and express.

INDUSTRY.—Birmingham, chief center of the coal and iron industry south of Pennsylvania, and greatest industrial center between Atlanta and New Orleans, is in the north central section of the State, in a valley among the most southerly ranges of the Appalachian system. Vast deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone underlie the region. These three essentials to steelmaking rarely occur in such convenient combination. This natural con­dition as to necessary mineral resources, and the acquisition of good rail facilities, marked the lo­cality for almost inevitable eminence as a steel center.

The coal fields begin only four or five miles out­side of Birmingham. The hematite iron ore crops, out on the slopes of Red Mountain, which over­looks the city. Deposits of limestone, bauxite,. graphite, sand, gravel, and hard stone abound.

Birmingham's industries are widely varied. Mining and milling come first, followed by manu­facture of heavy machinery. Cement and cast-iron pipe are shipped in large quantities. Food prod­ucts and textiles keep many industrial establish­ments busy and employ a host of workers. A number of the country's greatest steel, fuel, and refractories companies have major plants here.

Birmingham is the jobbing and retail center of a large area. Within its trade area or radius is a population aggregating nearly two million, and in­cluding such sizable communities as Anniston, Bessemer, Huntsville, and Gadsden.

EDUCATION.—Birmingham has a better than standard public school system. It has several high schools, of which one is an industrial school for Negro students, the largest of its kind in the world. This school originated in the determined and persistent effort of A. H. Parker, whose par­ents were slaves, to provide educational opportu­nity for the youth of his own race. There are also night schools for the adults. In these, as in the parochial school system, provision is made for Negro students.

Birmingham-Southern College has a library specializing in early English literature, and carries a large collection of early Southern newspapers. Its museum specializes in geology and botany. Howard College, owned and operated by the Southern Baptists, has a noted school of pharmacy. The college library houses a vast collection of Bibles.

BUSINESS.—The business and shopping district, with north-south streets and east-west avenues, is of uniformly rectangular pattern. Between t8th and 26th streets, and Fifth Avenue North and First Avenue North, is the principal retail trade area. Fifth Avenue North is what is known as Hotel Row, and in proximity is the Union railroad station. There are several distinct residential areas, each of which possesses a minor business district of its own.

ARCHITECTURE.—MOSt of the city's public build­ings are grouped about or located near Woodrow Wilson Park, in the central or business section. The municipal auditorium, before which stands a World War I monument, has a seating capacity of six thousand and has a large stage. The building is well lighted and ventilated.

The courthouse, completed in 1931, is a massive and imposing nine-story structure, marked by dig­nity of design rather than ornateness of finish. It houses the jail on the top floor. The City Hall contains administrative offices of all city depart­ments.

INTERESTS.—Industrial as it was in origin and early character, Birmingham in its civic maturity has made distinct advances in the finer fields of community life. The Civic Symphony Orchestra, dating from 1932, has an Art Club department, which gives an exhibition each year. Garden clubs play an active part in keeping up the city's appearance. The public library, located next to the courthouse, has a fine collection of books in all the fields of study, with several branches distrib­uted throughout the city. On near-by Shades Mountain stands Vestavia, a reproduction of the Roman Temple of Vesta.

CITY PLANNING.—Birmingham has forty-one parks, totaling more than one-thousand acres. The city has a large stadium and an excellent Legion Field.

RELIGION.—Religion has a very prominent place in the life of the Southerner. The first question usually asked a newcomer is, "What church do you belong to?" As a result of this atmosphere, one finds very many churches in the city, the pre­dominant churches being Baptist, Methodist, and Church of Christ. Catholicism is gaining in great strides. This is especially noticed in the work that is being done for the Negro. The Birmingham News, having a circulation above 300,000, is a Catholic-owned paper.

In this section of the country religious affilia­tions mean much. The people as a rule do not readily change to another church. They carry the tradition of being "dyed in the wool."

In the West End section of Birmingham is the Seventh-day Adventist church, with a membership of 316. The church is directly opposite the West End Hospital, owned and operated by the Baptist denomination. A church for colored members is located in the city, the membership totaling around three hundred. At Pine Hill, twelve miles from the city, there is a small sanitarium conducted by Seventh-day Adventists. There are several hos­pitals and social, charitable, civic welfare, and service organizations established in the city.

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By WALTER L. MAZART, Evangelist, Birmingham, Alabama

January 1946

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