Heritage Society enjoys the Bush-Hill-Cooley Home

One of the most anticipated Birmingham Historical Society events each year is the annual Heritage Society party. It often features one of Birmingham’s most magnificent historic mansions and this year was no exception, with the Bush-Hill-Cooley residence.

Bush-Hill-Cooley Heritage Society Party 2022. Photo: Louise McPhillips

Local architectural firm, Warren, Knight, & Davis, was hired by Morris Bush soon after his marriage in 1920 to design a proper English manor house on top of the mountain on a large lot in a subdivision developed by Jemison & Co. The widely-respected firm designed a Tudor Revival style residence of smooth-face, random-laid Indiana limestone with steep roofs, gables, large chimneys, and surrounded by substantial gardens in keeping with the examples established by King Henry VIII (Henry Tudor) after the reformation.

Morris Bush (age 48) moved his bride Margaret Gage Bush (age 33) to the magnificent residence in 1928. Following subsequent funerals for both of her parents, his mother, and their next door neighbor, finally good news! Their beloved daughter, Gage, was born in 1931, but sadly, the following year, Morris Bush died of a massive heart attack. Margaret couldn’t bear to stay in the house after all that unhappiness and moved in 1934.

James Hill, president of the local Hill Grocery Co., his wife Rena McMurray Hill, with their son Delmar, purchased the estate in 1934 from Margaret Bush and they would live there for the next 30 years, followed by Rena and her sister, for the next decade. The Hill family thrived despite the Depression due to their ’shop local’ philosophy, positioning a neighborhood grocery store within walking distance of many households as well as their support of ‘cash and carry’ (including script issued by local industrial firms).

After Ed Craig, and then Lanny & Brenda Vines lived there, Tammie & Jim Dandy Cooley purchased the estate in 2015. They’ve enjoyed working with architect Hank Long of Henry Sprott Long & Associates to renovate the home and restore the features and plantings of the surrounding gardens.

”Three years on the inside and then three years on the outside” as Tammie Cooley describes the couple’s ongoing love affair with the residence and its gardens. As Jim Dandy adds, ”we see ourselves as the current stewards of this timeless place.”

Much appreciation to the Cooley family for sharing the rich history and their labor of love with the Heritage Society this year!

(Interested in the Heritage Society? Here’s how to join)

100th Birthday Observance of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth

Historic Bethel Baptist Church, in conjunction with the Greater New Light Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio, will celebrate the 100th birthday of Freedom Fighter, Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, on March 18, 2022. The event will originate out of Cincinnati but will be simulcast in Birmingham. Dr. Carolyn Shuttlesworth, Reverend Shuttlesworth’s youngest daughter, will be in Birmingham for the event. 

Bethel Pastor Thomas L. Wilder has asked Mayor Randall Woodfin and a few other dignitaries in Birmingham to come and say a few words regarding what Reverend Shuttlesworth’s life and legacy means to Birmingham. The particulars of the celebration are as follows:

5:00 p.m. – Tree planting service at Bethel Baptist Church, 3233 29th Avenue North

5:30 p.m. – Carlton Reese Memorial Choir – New Bethel at 3200 28th Avenue North

6:00 p.m. – Simulcast begins at New Bethel – 3200 28th Avenue North

Reception following the Simulcast

Special thanks to Martha Bouyer, educational coordinator for Bethel Baptist Church and Birmingham Historical Society Trustee

Colored Masonic Temple – A Step Back in Birmingham’s Civil Rights History

Attached is exclusive video from inside the Colored Masonic Temple, also known as the ”Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alabama”, courtesy of photographer Hunter Stone at Leeds Sign. He has been working with the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, for several weeks on a historical documentary project of the Lodge prior to its planned 2022 renovation.

See the Temple filmed in full prior to its planned renovation in 2022. Click HERE to view video if link doesn’t appear below.

Video courtesy of Hunter Stone, Leeds Sign

The Temple is located at 1630 4th Avenue North, among the black owned businesses of the 4th Avenue North historic business district, one of the few areas in Birmingham where black business owners were encouraged in the early 20th century. It was designed by Tuskegee University architect, Robert R. Taylor (who was the first black student to attend MIT), and was completed in 1924 at a total cost of $658,000, debt-free. At the time of its completion, it was the largest, most state of the art facility built and paid for entirely by African Americans in the entire world.

It quickly became the hub of Birmingham’s black community. In addition to housing offices for fraternal groups and business professionals, it included a 2,000 seat auditorium, and housed the Booker T. Washington Library, the first lending library open to black citizens of Birmingham.

Lodge Room – photograph by Lewis Kennedy

In 1932, it was the setting for one of the first major civil rights events in Birmingham in response to the Scottsboro Boys trial. Also known as ”the black skyscraper”, it was designated part of Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument by the National Park Service in 1963 as part of a city-wide desegregation effort.

The building was closed in 2011, but current renovation plans are underway and, upon completion, hopes to once again become the hub of the 4th Avenue business district. Read more about renovation plans HERE and the fundraising campaign HERE

Slossfield, Midwifery, and Birmingham Historical Society – Then & Now

At its annual meeting on February 28th, the Birmingham Historical Society celebrated its 80th year. James White first shared a report on its financial history and its founders, as well as the current safeguards that protect its financial future. The Society’s stated goals of research, publication, and education often provide new owners with information that can enhance their property with unexpected historical perspective. Slossfield Maternity Center is an example of just that and three speakers highlighted its importance from their unique perspectives.

The Slossfield Community Center was added to the National Trust of Historic Places in May of 2008. It was purchased in 2018 by The Salvation Army with plans for it to be once again used as a core community center.

Slossfield is a complex of concrete buildings at the Finley Avenue exit off I65, built in the 1930’s and surrounded by industrial facilities including ACIPCO, Sloss, US Pipe, coal mines and quarries. One of the buildings, The Slossfield Maternity Center, was constructed in 1939 by WPA labor to train black physicians and nurses and improve prenatal care and delivery in one of the most underserved and poorest areas of Birmingham at that time. Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Boulware, Jr., Slossfield became the most successful of four demonstration centers built by the U.S. Public Health Service in the late 1930’s.

The first speaker, Sharon Holley, is Director of the new nurse-midwifery program at UAB School of Nursing, and is passionate about the role that midwifery can continue to play in providing safe births and healthy babies. In researching Slossfield via UAB archives, she presented statistics illustrating that Slossfield had become a model of good prenatal and obstetric care reducing the infant and mother mortality rate in that area by up to 92%.

At that time, blacks could only be admitted to hospitals in Birmingham by white physicians. The few black doctors were not able to admit patients to hospitals until 1952 when Holy Family Hospital was built in Ensley. Consequently, most black births prior to that time were at home, assisted by midwives, as the Slossfield Maternity Clinic was reserved for high risk deliveries, or first time mothers. Holley spoke about how we can use Slossfield’s historic example in creating a program for today’s mothers.

Dr. Thomas Boulware, Jr. came to Birmingham from Missouri in 1929 to serve in Norwood Clinic (soon to be known as Carraway Hospital) under Dr. Charles Carraway. He was quite young and immediately became interested in caring for the underserved communities of Birmingham. Dr. Boulware established the first indigent maternity clinic at Hillman Hospital (UAB), and served as medical director of Slossfield Maternity Clinic, training all the doctors and nurses on staff there.

The second speaker, Dr. Boulware’s son, Thomas Boulware, III, told stories of his father’s commitment to his patients, in one instance, traveling back & forth from North Birmingham to Woodlawn to deliver two babies born on the same evening. He told of his father delivering three generations multiple times, and another in which he had delivered eighteen members of the same family. And he highlighted many of the achievements of his father over an esteemed 60-year medical career in which he delivered over 26,000 babies.

The last speaker, John Stamps, is Director of Operations at the Salvation Army. He pointed out that the Salvation Army is actually a Christian outreach church despite being known primarily for their humanitarian efforts. The Salvation Army purchased the abandoned and deteriorating Slossfield in 2018. They have taken on the challenge of restoring it as a core community center, bringing back many of its original services. John Stamps outlined their plans, and with his new understanding of its origins, hopes to re-establish its significance to the community.

Research and history once again come full circle.

ANNUAL MEETING – Monday, February 28th, 7:00PM, BBG Auditorium

Featuring Early Healthcare, Obstetrics, and Midwifery for the underprivileged and poorly served in Birmingham in the 1940s.

A Local Landmark
A Legendary Leader
Slossfield & Dr. Boulware, Jr.
A Pioneering Obstetric Leader

The Slossfield and the Slossfield Maternity Center, center and center left, view looking toward North Birmingham across the slag dump, bottom right, of the Sloss- Sheffield Steel & Iron Company’s North Birmingham Furnaces. Sloss’ beehive coke ovens appear center right. Photograph, c. 1939, Birmingham, Alabama Public Library Archives.
INSET PHOTOGRAPH TOP: Sloss Coke Ovens and Housing. Oil, c. 1939, Rosalie Pettus Price. Collection Birmingham Historical Society.
INSET PHOTOGRAPH BOTTOM: Sloss Furnaces and Slag Pile along Village Creek, Oil, Sterling Worthen, Collection Marjorie L. White.

Historical Research, Publishing, and Education