When journalists write about the history of our city’s landmarks, the Society takes note, and appreciates their interest in Birmingham’s heritage. One recent example is Gabby Gervais’ article on 1/27/22 in Bham Now entitled, ”Discover the origin of the 3 unique parks in Highland Park”, in which she quotes BHS Director, Marjorie White.
Today, part of a much loved neighborhood with a variety of affordable housing, Highland Avenue was originally lined with mansions and was the preferred home of many of Birmingham’s founders. The three parks at that time were merely ravines along the popular avenue. So Mayor George Ward, who had a strong interest in public green spaces, declared the ravines on Highland Avenue “parks” assuring that they would remain undeveloped lots.
Rhodes Park, named after the founder of what is now The Birmingham News, is 3 1/4 acres with residential lots that were developed mainly between 1906-1911. The landscape plan was created by Boston landscape architect, George Miller, while some of the architectural features were designed by William Leslie Welton.
Rhodes Park, considered the central park on Highland Avenue, has a number of landscape features not found in the other two. Due to lack of city funds at the time, the stone entrances, steps, and concrete features in Rhodes Park were paid for by the wealthy residents who lived along Highland Avenue at the turn of the century. While the other two ravines remained largely undeveloped, thanks to the efforts of Mayor George Ward, they have nevertheless remained parks, and are included in the Olmsted Brothers plans for green spaces in Birmingham.