9 things you need to know about the North Birmingham Community, including the Historic Bethel Baptist Church

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Bethel Baptist Church is trying to revitalize the North Birmingham community.
Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Wilder, Jr. in front of Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

If you’ve never ventured into the part of Birmingham that lies between Village Creek and Five Mile Creek, north of Norwood, we’ve got a treat for you today. We’ve done some homework so we can share with you about some of the treasures of this part of town. A little off the beaten path, the North Birmingham community has played a key part in our city’s history.

For those of you who are following along, this is the fifth in a twenty-three part series we’re bringing you, in which we help you get to know all 99 of Birmingham’s neighborhoods. So far, we’ve featured the Crestwood, Northside, Red Mountain, and Roebuck / South East Lake communities.

1. Where is the North Birmingham Community?

The North Birmingham Community consists of six of the city’s 99 neighborhoods: Acipco-Finley, Collegeville, Fairmont, Harriman Park, Hooper City, and North Birmingham.

If you’re a geography geek like me and would like more detail on where each of these neighborhoods is, scroll down to the bottom. We’ve got you covered. There’s even a map in case you’re in the mood to take a field trip.

2. North Birmingham: a little history

ACIPCO is one of the few thriving industries remaining in North Birmingham.
ACIPCO is one of the main industries still active in the Acipco-Finley neighborhood of the North Birmingham community. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Back in the days when industry provided worker housing, companies built many of the neighborhoods in the North Birmingham community. ACIPCO (American Cast Iron Pipe Company) is the biggest and most well known of these industries, and it’s still going strong.

In the 1960s, Collegeville was a hub for Civil Rights activism. The Historic Bethel Baptist Church, where the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was the pastor from 1953-61, played a key role in ushering in a new era, and was the target of bombings on more than one occasion during the city’s dark “Bombingham” days. It is now part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, and a frequent tour destination for school kids and visitors from around the world.

3. Why do people live in North Birmingham? What’s special about the community?

The Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad used to link all the parts of the city that had steel-making materials. This sign is in North Birmingham.
Did you know the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroad used to link all the parts of the city that had steel-making materials? Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Sandra Brown, Board of Education member for North Birmingham, recalled a time when “North Birmingham was thriving. Years ago, there was a small, thriving downtown area with a business district, several grocery stores, movie theaters, shoe stores, cafes, bakeries. We had doctors, dentists, plants, foundries. During that time Blacks bought homes. There were more than half a dozen schools—we had everything we needed. . . there are a lot of ties and history here.”

4. What are the local hangout spots in North Birmingham?

Honeymoon Barber Shop is one of the places where men gather in North Birmingham.
Honeymoon Barber Shop is one of the local hangout spots for men in North Birmingham. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Barbara Hightower, church secretary at New Bethel Baptist Church said some people like to go eat at the Original Green Acres Cafe. There are also some fast food places like Captain Ds and Popeye’s that people can get to if they have transportation.

According to Hightower, you can often find men hanging out at the vacant lot next to the Honeymoon Barbershop, and a lot of people go to Etheridge Beauty and Style Shop.

5. How much is housing in North Birmingham?

Atrium Real Estate is listing this home in Druid Hills, just south of North Birmingham.

In 2018, the median house price in North Birmingham was $30,000.

You’ll find this lovely home, listed by Atrium Real Estate, in Druid Hills, not too far from the BJCC, just south of North Birmingham.

6. What does everyone who visits North Birmingham have to see?

The Historic Bethel Baptist Church is a must-see in North Birmingham.
Did you know Rev. Shuttlesworth brought Dr. King to Birmingham? Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

The Historic Bethel Baptist Church is a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

While you’re in the area, why not check out the Alabama Farmer’s Market? When I was little, my Mom and I were regulars here, picking up bushels of corn to shuck, beans to string and peas to shell. Good memories.

Of course, when you get hungry, head over to Niki’s West for Southern cafeteria style food, or Andrew Zimmern’s fave, Eagle’s Restaurant, one block south of ACIPCO.

Also, if you’re working on a home remodeling or business decor project, you want to check out Evolutia, which specializes in reclaimed wood. Their gallery is pretty dreamy.

Adamson Ford has Ford Explorers available that would be perfect for a field trip to North Birmingham. Or really, anywhere.
What is the best way to see these North Birmingham sights? In a Ford Explorer, of course! The team over at Adamson Ford on 2nd Avenue South is offering payments as low as $394 a month with a $2000 down payment on the 2018 Ford Explorer—a deal on a great car that you won’t want to miss!

7. What’s the best Instagram spot in North Birmingham?

The North Birmingham Ecoscape Rooster wins best Instagram spot in the community.
North Birmingham Ecoscape Rooster on 30th Avenue North. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

North Birmingham boasts a couple of cool murals. Take your pick.

8. Open jobs

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9. Where exactly are all those North Birmingham neighborhoods again?

The Alabama Farmers Market on Finely Ave is a must-see in North Birmingham.
Alabama Farmers Market on Finely Avenue. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

For all the geography geeks in the house, this’ll give you a better idea of where all of this is on a map, going from left to right:

  • Acipco-Finley is on the western side of I-65, north of Village Creek. This is where you’ll find Acipco, Niki’s West, and the Alabama Farmer’s Market.
  • Hooper City is just north of Acipco-Finley and includes the Lassiter Mountain Raceway Park, where Richard Petty used to race, back in the day.
  • North Birmingham is the next neighborhood to the east of Acipco-Finley, on the eastern side of I-65, also north of Village Creek. It includes the eastern side of Finley Boulevard, as well as Carver High School, which you can easily see on the left-hand side if you’re driving down from I-65 North toward Birmingham.
  • Fairmont is north of North Birmingham, on both sides of I-65, and extends north to Five Mile Creek. When you take 22 toward Memphis, you’re passing through part of Fairmont.
  • Collegeville is the next neighborhood to the east of North Birmingham. It lies just north of Norwood—Village Creek is the dividing line between the two neighborhoods. Here you’ll find both the Historic Bethel Baptist Church and the current Bethel Baptist.
  • Harriman Park is the most sparsely populated of the North Birmingham community’s neighborhoods, with railroad tracks on the eastern side, industry on the left, and a few homes in between. It’s just southeast of Fairmont and east of Collegeville.

Black History Month is as good an excuse as any to hop in the car and take a drive to North Birmingham to see what you’ve been missing.

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Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference