Tag Archives: five points south

Birming-Images

For those of you who aren’t very familiar with our city, I thought that you may enjoy a bit of a photographic tour. These images are the landmarks that make us who we are; they’re the things that make us unique.

The Vulcan Statue is generally considered to be the symbol of Birmingham. It was sculpted, begining in 1903 by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. He was Birmingham’s entry for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Vulcan was the god of the fire and the forge in Roman mythology. Since 1936 Vulcan has stood watch over the city from his perch atop Red Mountain. Symbolizing the city’s founding on the iron and steel industry, he is made from iron ore mined from the very mountain on which he stands. At 56 feet, he is the tallest cast iron statue on Earth and is the 7th tallest free standing statue in the United States.

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But Vulcan isn’t the only cool statue in Birmingham. “Miss Electra” has adorned the top of the Birming-images 005Alabama Power building since 1926. Unlike Vulcan who is partially clothed, Miss Electra is totally nude and has lighting bolts for hair and bolts in her hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man greets visitors to the Medical Forum in downtown Birmingham.

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Once known as the “Football Capital of the South” Birmingham’s Legion Field has been home to some legendary games involving the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. For many years it was the largest stadium in the state and the Tide and the Tigers usually chose to play their biggest, most important home games here. Up until the last few years of the 20th century, the Tide and Tigers always played each other here. That’s why the label “Iron Bowl” became associated with the huge rivalry. When the two teams began updating the stadiums on their own campuses, Legion Field became less important. Now those two stadiums, especially Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, dwarf the “Gray Lady” , a name often used to refer to Legion Field. The stadium is still in use but not for the big glory games of the state’s largest two universities. It’s now the home field of the UAB Blazers and is the home of the “Magic City Classic” another big rivalry game between Alabama’s two largest historically black universities, Alabama State and Alabama A&M. The BBVA Compass Bowl is also played here every January.          Birming-images 023                                                                                 Birming-images 019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of a dark chapter in the history of Birmingham. A dark chapter in terms of the shameful way that city officials and many white citizens reacted to the struggles for civil rights by African Americans. On the other hand it could be viewed as a bright chapter in the city’s history because it was the catalyst of change. It was the begining of the dismantling of the segregation and discrimination that unfortunately; this city and state had become infamous for in the eyes of the world. The area along 16th street north between 4th and 6th avenue north is sacred ground. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now stands across 16th street from Kelly Ingram Park, an area where Bull Connor once used water cannons and vicious police dogs to subdue civil rights demonstrators. It stands across 6th avenue north from 16th Street Baptist Church, the scene of a Ku Klux Klan bombing that took the lives of 4 little girls in 1963. Birming-images 048

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As I’ve mentioned before, healthcare is the economic crown jewel of modern Birmingham. Banking is a close second. Regions Bank and BBVA Compass Bank are both headquarted here. Wells Fargo has a large presence. Birming-images 008

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One of the most interesting buildings in Birmingham IMO is Southside’s Quinlan Castle. Built in 1927 to resemble a medieval English castle, the building has served mainly as residential apartments throughout it’s history. It’s now owned by the Southern Research Institute and is not being used for apartments. According to the Bhamwiki article on the castle, in 1940 Quinlan Castle was rumored to have been the Birmingham headquarters of the Communist Party. It was in fact the home of party secretary Robert Hall. Hall’s apartment was raided by the Birmingham police but they didn’t find much of interest. Just a letter from someone at the Tennessee Valley Authority suggesting communist activities in that agency. Birming-images 043

 

 

 

 

 

 

Familiar to many visitors to the city is sculptor Frank Flemming’s “Storyteller” fountain at 5 points south. It sits in front of Highlands United Methodist Church and is at the center of the 5 points entertainment district. Birming-images 032

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Lovoy, a 5 Points South icon gladly poses in front of the fountain.

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The newest building on Birmingham’s skyline is the gleaming new Benjamin Russell wing of Children’s Hospital. marcsteel 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works is still operating just west of downtown. uss 007

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ensley Works of USS ceased operations in the early 1970’s CIMG6868

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the location of the famous Tuxedo Junction “The place where the people go to dance the night away”. The song was co-written by Birmingham composer Erskine Hawkins. It was originally written as an instrumental. The nightclub that was the subject of the song was located in this building on 20th street Ensley. The building briefly served as a punk rock venue in the 1980’s. 3312010 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sloss Furnaces operated from the late 19th century until 1971 near downtown Birmingham.  The old mill has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark. It serves as a museum as well as a music venue, a venue for weddings, beer festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It’s said that the ghosts of many men who died on the job here over the decades still haunt the old mill.

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Built in 1929 this building was the home of the Thomas Jefferson Hotel. At that time it was one of the finest hotels in the south. In the 1970’s it became known as the Cabana Hotel and finally Leer Tower before it was closed in 1983. The object on the right side of the roof of the building is a zeppelin mooring mast, the last of it’s kind in the world. In 2012 a non-profit corporation was formed to raise money to buy the property and restore it back to it’s former glory. Jeff hotel 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mural with a message painted on the wall of an abandoned grocery store in west Birmingham.

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Sources: Wikipedia and Bhamwiki.

All photographs and text copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

Pissy Drunk

We all know that there are different degrees of drunkeness. It usually starts with just a slightly buzzed feeling after a couple of drinks. It can then proceed to slurred speech, staggering gate and talking about dumb and inappropriate things. After this stage comes complete incoherence of speech, inability to recall simple things like one’s name or address and finally unconsciousness. My customer on this day was at this last stage, just before unconsciousness.

It was a beautiful spring day and there was a beer festival going on at Sloss Furnaces. Sloss is an old steel mill near downtown Birmingham that stopped making steel in 1971. It has since been converted into a museum of sorts. The blast furnace and most of the other steel making machinery has been preserved and on most days it’s open for the public to tour. On some days it’s used as an event venue. There are weddings, concerts, festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks preceeding Halloween. It’s said that the old mill is home to the ghosts of some of the workers who died there over the years that it was in operation.

Just a few years ago, Alabama finally repealed an archaic law that didn’t allow beer containing more than 6% alcohol to be sold in the state. Since the law’s repeal, somewhat of a craft beer culture has emerged, at least in the larger cities. The festival going on at Sloss allowed the public to purchase a ticket and then walk through the festival sampling different craft beers from around the world. Needless to say it’s a very popular festival! I had made 3 or 4 trips to the festival to pick up the beer lovers. Most of them were just at the slightly tipsy stage, some were slurring but all were able to get around OK and communicate with me. When I dropped off a group in the Southside my dispatch computer immediately offered me a trip in the same zone. I accepted it, not thinking anything would be out of the ordinary. It was daytime, probably about 3:30 in the afternoon. The call was to a popular sports bar in the Lakeview entertainment district. When I drove up in the parking lot I could see a young man who apperaed to be very drunk leaning against a car with another young man who appeared to be sober standing beside him. The sober one was the bartender who had called the cab for the drunk guy. Apparently the two were aquaintances and the bartender handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked me to take him home. “I’ve never been to his house, but he said he lives near the peacock on the mountain”.Alabama court 024

I assumed he was talking about the NBC sign in front of T.V. station channel 13, the NBC affiliate located atop Red Mountain. One thing I’ve learned as a driver is that when you have a customer who is at the incoherent stage of drunkeness and there’s no one else along for the ride with them, it never ends well. I don’t know if this guy had been to the festival or not, he couldn’t communicate well enough to tell me. One thing I did know for sure was that he had been doing some serious drinking somewhere.

At first I thought he may have been talking about the old brick apartments on both sides of Valley Avenue on the backside of the mountain and the T.V. stations. Do you live here, in these apartments? I asked him. He looked around a bit and made negaitve gestures. I then drove up the hill next to channel 13 but there were no houses or apartments there. Then I thought, he must be talking about the front side of the mountain. There are many houses, apartment complexes, and old houses broken up into apartments along 16th, 17th, and 18th avenues, it has to be in that area. You can see the NBC peacock sign from there. I asked him, is this your neighborhood? Do you live on this street? He didn’t recognize any of these houses as home. After a while I had driven over almost every street on the Southside side of the mountain and he never recognized the place he wanted to go. I decided I’d just take him back to where I picked him up, after all I couldn’t ride him around with me the rest of the day, I had to make money. When I got to the main intersection in Five Points South, 11th avenue and 20th street, I had to stop at a red light with three cars in front of me, I couldn’t go anywhere. Five Points South is a popular cultural area with many restaurants, bars, shops, a Starbucks and an area where people congregate to play music, do artwork ect… this area usually draws a crowd of everything from homeless people and freight train hopping hobos to UAB students, faculty and business people.

There were many people enoying their beverages at the tables on the street in front of Starbucks, many people at the gathering area, and several people standing in front of the Thai restaurant and the BBQ restaurant across the street. Five Points was bustling on this bright spring day. While sitting at the light I heard my back door open. When I looked around my customer was standing in the street in front of God and everybody, with his pants unzipped taking a leak. Before I could say anything I heard the whoop whoop of a police car siren that was waiting at the same light a few cars back. When my customer finished peeing and got back in the car he was able to say “take me to the Courtyard”. The Courtyard is a bar around the corner on Highland Avenue.

When I pulled up in front of the Courtyard with the police car close behind, my customer jumped out immediately and staggered toward the door. I could see that the shorts he was wearing were soaking wet from the crotch down, I guess he had a really bad aim. I looked around at my seat; yep it was wet too. Thank God it was faux leather and not cloth. The cop caught him before he made it to the door. What the cop did next astonished me. Instead of hand cuffing the guy and arresting him for public intoxication or indecent exposure, he took the drunk guy’s cell phone and found his father’s number in the contacts. He called the guy’s father, who lived in Gardendale, a suburb a few miles north of the city. He said “your son is here in Southside and he’s very drunk. I don’t want to take him to jail, if you’ll come pick him up I’ll let him go with you”. I guess it was the drunk guy’s lucky day. I drove up to the Chevron on the corner, bought some cleaning supplies and started to clean and disinfect my back seat.

copyright 2012 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.