DON NOBLE: E-book explores Birmingham&#39s architecture


Published: Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.


Final Modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 2:40 p.m.


Todd Keith, the author of “Insider’s Guide to Birmingham,” has gathered dozens of photographs, the earliest of which appear to be about 1905, and, limiting himself to the outdated town boundaries and early suburbs, matched them up with modern day shots of the very same church, business office developing, avenue, park, athletic area or monument. The pictures, mixed with transient commentaries, make for a pleasing vis-ual trip by way of Birmingham’s architectural past.

Occasionally the photographs will make you sad or angry. There are photos of splendid, architecturally exciting structures or cultural landmarks that have been torn down to make way for parking decks or banks. The Joy Youthful Restaurant, for example, is now Wells Fargo Tower. Keith implies the largest loss may possibly be the gorgeous Beaux-Arts Terminal Station, demolished in a 1969 “development plan that never came to fruition.”

But in what may legitimately be called irony, Keith reminds the reader that there are a great many architectural treasures remaining in Birmingham, as opposed to Atlanta or Nashville, cities with much much more vigorous growth, because of “the loss of life of the metal industry and the deterioration of Birmingham’s urban core in the sixties and 1970s.”

Some pairs of photos seem virtually contemporaneous. These are usually churches. Highlands United Methodist, Cathedral of St. Paul, Cathedral Church of the Arrival, Sixteenth Avenue Baptist and Temple Emanuel are spruced up but much the identical.

Also saved was the Alabama Electricity Creating, called by the London Day-to-day Specific “one of the a few most stunning community utility structures in the planet.” An odd classification.

There is a close-up of the energy building’s gilded feminine nude Elektra or “Divinity of Light-weight.” A single suspects if this statue had been nearer the floor, not atop fourteen stories, there would be some stir even nowadays.

Bachelor Mayor George Ward’s sensational residence, “Vestavia,” 1925, modeled after the Temple of the Vestal Virgins in Rome, was demolished by Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in 1971. Ward’s folly, the truly eccentric round, domed Temple of Sybil modeled after a temple in Tivoli, Italy, nonetheless, was dismantled and moved from Shades Mountain to the top of Alabama Highway 31.

Other monuments, such as Vulcan, are cleaned up but unchanged.

The Bottega Favorita constructing, on Highland Ave, which appears unchanged, was originally a office store.

Birmingham misplaced the “lovely” previous St Vincent’s Healthcare facility, “demolished to make way for its alternative.” Needed, but a disgrace. Of a different nature totally is the 1950s photograph of an Ensley neighborhood, demonstrating “the pipes of the mill (that) physically tower more than the town” with decrepit picket business shacks on an unpaved road. The shacks are absent, but so are the Ensley mills.

Tuxedo Junction in Ensley, flourishing from the 20s to the 50s, is now the scene of commemorative plaques and an yearly pageant. The airport of 1931 is a quaint little constructing in the fashion of an antebellum mansion with travellers in rockers on the entrance porch.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Global is modern in the excessive.

A few spectacular or unusual structures are nonetheless standing but deteriorating quick. Definitely there can be a use for the fanciful 21st Road South Quinlan Castle with its battlements and turrets. Keith, just for the exciting of it, has incorporated a 1912 photo of Louise Wooster’s popular Fourth Avenue brothel, found, without irony a single guesses, in The Alabama Supply Co. constructing.

This review was initially broadcast on Alabama Public Radio. Don Noble is host of the Alabama General public Television literary job interview display “Bookmark” and the editor of “A Condition of Laughter: Comedian Fiction from Alabama.”

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