We are MOVING! (We have MOVED!)

Please note our change of location to: 2827 Highland Avenue/Birmingham, AL 35205. At this time, the BHS business office is open ONLY for scheduled meetings and appointments, and our mailing address remains unchanged at P.O. Box 321474/Birmingham, AL 35232. When our ongoing renovations are completed, a formal opening will be announced. (UPDATE: OPEN HOUSE November 13th, 2-4PM)

We LOVE our historic Highland Avenue neighborhood!

A big thanks to all those who made this move possible including John Lauriello of Southpace Properties, architect and BHS Trustee Wayne Hester, and The Ehney Camp Foundation.

Take me out to the OLDEST ballpark 🎵🎶

America’s oldest ballpark right here in Birmingham

Lifetime and passionate baseball fan and writer, Sean Dietrich, aka Sean of the South, recently discovered Rickwood Field, America’s oldest ballpark, and brings it to life for us with THIS colorful description. One of our favorite Southern writers, he really loves the game and frequently explains why in his daily column. Don’t miss his article, “The Old Ballgame”. So after attending a travel game here, Sean toured the facility with Friends of Rickwood volunteer Randy Ferguson, who told him,

“Sad thing is, you’d be surprised how many folks in Birmingham have never heard of Rickwood Field….Tell everyone you know to come visit us.”

Birmingham Historical Society board member Tom Cosby reminds us that just as the Friends of Rickwood were getting started 30 years ago, the Birmingham Historical Society, through the efforts of Marjorie White, got HABS/HAER (the Historic American Building Survey and the Historic American Engineering Record) to visit Birmingham and fully document the unassailable fact that Rickwood Field was, indeed, the oldest baseball park in America.

Local artist Terry Slaughter took those measured HABS drawings, colored them, and turned them into the promotional rendering that kick started the preservation of Rickwood. And with those efforts, the Friends of Rickwood have been able to effectively raise just enough money to help save (so far) this ancient and historic ballpark — a ballpark where such American legends as Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson once played.

So we’re repeating the words of Randy, as recorded by Sean Dietrich:

“The best thing anyone can do is tell your friends about this place. Don’t let history die. Tell everyone you know to come visit us.”

Thank you Sean, for spreading the word!

Genealogy Research – Ask a Librarian!

Birmingham Historical Society frequently receives requests for information on family histories, photograph archives, or specific Southern history items.

The Birmingham Historical Society researches specific subjects and are not the best resource for genealogy. However, we are fortunate to have the excellent Department of Southern History at the Birmingham Public Library. Not only do they offer classes in computer research for genealogy, but for specific requests, you can ’ask a librarian’ in writing to research individual questions.

They offer databases of building photographs, browsing by subject and/or name, and digitized obituaries, newspapers, and magazines. Cemeteries, stories, census records, church histories, military & civil rights histories, marriage records, and maps are just a fraction of the information to which you have access.

The digital collection contains more than 30,000,000 documents and 500,000 photographs.

So next time you want to discover more about your Southern history, ask a librarian!

Birmingham’s Hot Weather Extremes

It is HOT today, and there is another heat alert advising people to be cautious, but it IS July. So thought we’d take a look at some of Birmingham’s weather extremes throughout its weather history.

The hottest recorded temperature in Birmingham, Alabama history was a scorching 107 degrees Fahrenheit which occurred on July 29th, 1930. But it reached:

  • 106 on July 13, 1980
  • 106 on July 29, 1952
  • 106 on July 25, 1952 and
  • 106 on July 12, 1930.

Take a look at some more Birmingham extremes HERE. A special thanks to the Hostetler brothers. They created this site using U.S. government aggregate data in response to anecdotal stories from their parents about the extremely cold weather while students at the University of Michigan.

Maybe the upper 90’s in July are not so extreme after all! Stay cool…

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)

Historical Research, Publishing, and Education