All posts by bhistorical

Steve Williams III (1936-2020)

Birmingham Historical Society Past President, Trustee, and Past President of Finance and Investment Committees

Steve Williams was a wonderful friend to Birmingham Historical Society and a contributing member prior to his death this month. Most recently he lent a photograph from his archive in Eufala for publication in our recent Shades Creek book. Over a period of many years he served as a Trustee, President, and Chairman of both the Finance and Investment Committees. 

As President in 1980, he led the Society’s Trustees though a series of long-range planning sessions conducted by the heads of both the American Association of State and Local History and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These sessions, held at Protective’s Headquarters, set the agenda of our institution for subsequent decades. The former resolved that the Society would not collect records, documents, and artifacts; the later that it would direct research, publishing, and educational efforts toward the preservation of historic landmarks and districts. The Society’s Finance Committee met in his offices at Protective. Here also, working with Steve, Trustees first formulated endowment policies, crafting guidelines for investment policy. This was cutting edge planning for non-profits in the mid1980s.

Steve also supported the younger trustees when we decided to renovate a historic house and move our offices to the Sloss Furnaces. One day he took me out to lunch and shopping … at the Protective Corporation surplus furniture warehouse. He told me I could have anything I wanted. I picked the burnt-orange covered conference chairs and table that we long enjoyed, quite a step up from our army-surplus office desks and chairs. Steve always encouraged us to write more about people. I think of him fondly when we do and it is deeply rewarding to recall and write about our association with him.

– Marjorie White, BHS Director

Grandmother’s Garden at Sloss

This Facebook video created by Lisa Jones of Jefferson County – Alabama Extension – shares details surrounding the beginning and evolution of Grandmother’s Garden at Birmingham Historical Society’s headquarters at Sloss Quarters. Narrated in part by BHS Director, Marjorie White, the video also pays tribute to retiring longtime Urban Regional Jefferson County extension agent, Sallie Lee, as well as master gardener volunteers who have helped plant and maintain the garden since its beginnings fifteen years ago.

For a look at some of the native plant materials included in the garden, please refer to BHS publication, Pretty Posies, Healing Powers –An Herbal Primer

This Old House Research

The research volunteers at Birmingham Historical Society are committed to providing education not only about Birmingham’s history, but generic information that’s useful to everyone. So BHS was delighted to hear from a youth services librarian and educator at G.A.T.E. DENVER CHILDREN’S COALITION who was able to use our online resources and educational programs for a virtual beginner research class over the past several months.

In return, she provided us with a helpful link her students had also been using entitled GUIDE TO RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF A HOUSE which is helpful to anyone who has an interest in learning about family history or their home. Thank you to the students of G.A.T.E. for providing us with this link that has now been added to our list of resources!

And thank you for sharing your mission statement, “Learning doesn’t begin and end at the classroom door. The world is a classroom.” You are on your way to becoming lifelong researchers!

Altamont – A Portion of Red Mountain and its Park

Long time residents of Birmingham know that the Altamont ridge has one of the best views in the city, a forested overlook perched 400 feet above Jones Valley.

But did you know that Boston architect, George H. Miller, originally created a plan for the Altamont ridge in 1911, specifically providing for both public and private forested views? In fact, the guiding principal, reiterated in an interview by City Forester Hugh Sloss in 1931, was that:

“Altamont Park was intended to remain a natural, forested green space, enhanced only by selective cleaning and pruning. It was conceived as a neighborhood park, whereas Altamont Road, one link in an imagined longer parkway, was meant for the enjoyment of all of Birmingham’s citizens and visitors. Furthermore, preserving as much vegetation as possible on the north face of Red Mountain allows the City of Birmingham to retain its most notable and defining natural feature.”

Read the entire history in Birmingham Historical Society’s latest publication, Altamont – A Portion of Red Mountain and Its Park. Or click image below to order a copy.

Coming Soon – Tour of Avondale Churches


Historic Houses of Worship: Avondale
A Walking and Driving Tour
Led by David R. Bains, PhD
Sunday, April 5, 2020, 1:30-4:00 p.m.

Several Avondale churches built in the 1880’s still remain and have been joined by others in this thriving residential community established in 1884. See the map below for the houses of worship included on the tour led by Samford University’s professor in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies.