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.
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 atG.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!
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.”
The annual BHS cake/pie competition was a huge success with eighteen entries and just one more cake than there were pies. Oh my! It was hard to choose! There were pound cakes, there were tea cakes, chocolate, caramel, and even a büche de noel. The stories behind them were as good as the cakes! But the clear winner was Don Sweeney’s “Friendship Cake” – a cake which takes 50 days to make – and which was first presented during the Civil Rights Era and over 200 times since then, personally baked by Don himself!
According to Carolanne,
“It was introduced to his family by Gertrude who had worked with the family for years before requesting “time off” to go participate in the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham—she became known as the Rosa Parks of Rosedale for her mighty works. Don Sweeney’s dad had assured Gertrude that her job would await her and, in gratitude, she made this cake for the family. She must’ve also shared the recipe because Don has made it more than 200 times over the years since. It begins with a starter of fruits, sugar, and brandy which (I believe) must be tended to daily for about 3 weeks..then come other steps before the final baking. It was picture perfect in presentation—and wow’d the judge before he even knew about the process or the backstory.”
The 2020 annual meeting focused on a portion of Shades Valley originally developed for the South & North Alabama Railroad which is now in the Ross Bridge community. A beautifully designed stone culvert, c. 1864, which bridged Shades Creek is all that remains of the original railroad causeway designed to bring iron ore from the Oxmoor Furnaces to Confederate arsenals.
A project of one of Birmingham’s important pioneers, John T. Milner, his railroad led to the founding of Birmingham in December of 1871. Several descendants of Milner’s attended the meeting along with an audience of over a hundred. The history of the area was presented by BHS Director, Marjorie White, and the construction of the bridge was illustrated and discussed by Birgit Kibelka.
The meeting began with a presentation of the strategic plan for BHS by Joe Limbaugh, and was followed by a ‘taste testing’ of eighteen cakes and pies based on a memorable family recipe, organized by Carolanne Roberts. Each entry was accompanied by a family history or story, and many had been baked annually for special occasions or presented as gifts for years!