Tag Archives: Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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.

The Life and Legacy of the Olmsted Family by Laurence Cotton, Historian

Celebrating Olmsted: BRINGING NATURE TO THE CITY AND CREATING BREATHING SPACE FOR DEMOCRACY

As part of a series of nation-wide, year-long events celebrating the legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted and the Olmsted family of landscape architects, historian Laurence Cotton presented a lecture detailing their impact at The Birmingham Botanical Gardens on February 16th.

Consulting producer on the PBS film, Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America, Cotton had not only visited, but was often intimately familiar with many of the Olmsted projects he discussed. His slides traveled the audience across America, giving the history, motivation, and importance of each of the parks and green spaces. Many are well-known and include:

  • Niagra Falls
  • The Biltmore Estate
  • Central Park in NYC
  • Yosemite
  • The Capitol Grounds and The Washington Mall
  • The Great White City – Chicago
  • Boston’s Emerald Necklace
  • Prospect Park in Brooklyn

Cotton emphasized the social importance of the Olmsted legacy. The green spaces and parks were designed to be available to all walks of life, to enhance the health and well-being of visitors, to encourage social engagement across economic & cultural divides, to provide forestry and landscape experiments, and to stand the test of time. As he stated, Frederick Law Olmsted and his sons were true artists of the landscape, while working on a vast scale, in FOUR dimensions, with the fourth being time…to allow their design visions to mature over decades.

However, their public spaces were not always green, as Cotton illustrated by Olmsted’s plan for the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C. There, Olmsted’s step design again encouraged democracy and provided an open forum for public engagement.

As another example, their design for Niagra Falls restored and enhanced the beauty that was already there. Before and after images were startling.

Niagra gorge circa 1901

Cotton ended his travel log in Birmingham, drawing upon the resources written by The Birmingham Historical Society and Marjorie White, with a special recommendation for Shades Creek, Flowing Through Time. Related artifacts assembled by The Southern History Department of The Birmingham Public Library, were part of a special exhibit and reception following the lecture. Books by The Birmingham Historical Society on Olmsted were available, and a reading list assembled by Laurence Cotton is available HERE.

By Popular Demand!

The evening lecture at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens entitled, Celebrating Olmsted with Historian Laurence Cotton, on February 16th, filled overnight. In an effort to accommodate all those with an interest in attending, an additional lecture has been added at 10AM. Registration opens to the public at 5PM on Wednesday, January 19th.

Ross Bridge – Remnants of the Civil War Era

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!