It may be smaller and younger than other metropolitan centers in the southeastern United States, but Birmingham, Alabama, has a big history. The city was a product of the Industrial Revolution, and later played a prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement. If you’re staying in the area, make some time for these exciting historical places to visit.
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
In the days of the segregated South, Carver Theatre was a movie theater designated for the African American community. Today it’s home to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Schedule your visit on a day when live performers are on stage for a multi-sensory experience.
Built in 1927 as a showcase theater for Paramount Films, Alabama Theatre takes visitors back to the golden days of Hollywood. This beautiful building also stands out as one of the first air-conditioned structures, and was once the home of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
The Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens is an excellent example of the Greek revival architecture that dominated Southern plantations before the Civil War. This restored home is now a museum featuring textiles, paintings and furniture from the period.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about or pay their respects to the people involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Here you can see replicas of a segregated city and a Freedom Riders bus, as well as original documents and a recorded oral history of the time period.
Heaviest Corner on Earth
Between 1902 to 1912, four skyscrapers went up at the intersection of First Avenue N and 20th Street in downtown Birmingham, marking the city’s rise as an economic powerhouse in the region. The four buildings once housed some of the largest businesses in the city, and represent distinctive architectural styles that are beautiful to see.
Kelly Ingram Park
Kelly Ingram Park has the notorious distinction of being the place where Bull Connor used fire hoses and dogs to shut down protests. It was a popular meeting spot where protesters gathered during boycotts. You can learn more about this through the free audio tour available on the grounds.
16th Street Baptist Church
The 16th Street Baptist Church dates back to the 19th century and became famous after the 1963 bombing that killed four girls, a tragedy that helped spur the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can see the impressive structure today and attend church at one of the weekly services.
Sloss Furnace is a national historic landmark and a reminder of Birmingham’s early days in the iron and steel industries. The site still looks like it did in the 1800s when it was one of the world’s largest producers of pig iron.
Vulcan Park & Museum
In its heyday, Birmingham was the South’s iron and steel capital. For the 1904 World’s Fair, the city was represented by a 50-foot statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge. Today, that statue is still on display in Vulcan Park & Museum.