Marvin Clemons and his personal mission to fund a historic marker for Terminal Station

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Historian Marvin Clemons with his book, Great Temple of Travel. The mural, by @stephensmithfineart, is on the side of Saab’s Tire and Automotive, 3030 5th Ave N. Photo by Nathan Watson for BhamNow.

For many, the loss of Birmingham’s Terminal Station in 1969 is still a sore subject. Although it is too late to save the station, local historian Marvin Clemons is on a mission to preserve its place in Birmingham’s history. Find out how.

I first learned about the Birmingham Terminal Station in a college history class. In fact, I wrote my first college research paper on the station. Even though it happened before my lifetime, I grew to love the station and ache for its loss.

Birmingham Terminal Station

Aerial photo of Terminal Station in the late 1960s. Photo via Birmingham Terminal Station on Facebook.

For over 60 years, the station was the main stop for out-of-town visitors. The famous “Birmingham, The Magic City” sign welcomed visitors to the city. The station connected Birmingham to cities like Chattanooga, New Orleans, and even New York.

At its peak, the station received 54 trains per day. However, rail traffic significantly declined by the 1960s. In 1969, the Alabama Public Service Commission approved the demolition of the station. Historical societies and concerned citizens fought for preservation, but the station finally closed on September 22nd, 1969.

Marvin Clemons

To show what the Terminal Station used to look like.
A steam excursion leaves Birmingham Terminal Station in 1968. Photo by Jim Thorington.

For as long as he can remember, Marvin Clemons has loved trains.

As a young child, Clemons would stare for hours as trains entered and departed from the station. By the time he was 17, he had a job as a towerman at the station.

In 2016, Marvin Clemons published Great Temple of Travel, a pictorial history of Birmingham Terminal Station. He is regarded as Birmingham’s leading historian when it comes to the station.

Historical marker campaign

To show what the proposed Birmingham Terminal Station marker will look like.
The campaign aims to place a marker similar to this one near the vicinity of the old Magic City sign along 5th Avenue North. Photo via Birmingham Terminal Station on Facebook.

Although it has been 50 years since the Station’s demolition, there is no marker to indicate that the station ever existed. The two blocks of Carraway Blvd. where the station used to live now sit empty.

However, Marvin Clemons is on a mission to change that.

After his presentation at Vulcan Park earlier this month, Clemons announced his vision for a historical marker about Terminal Station. The estimated cost for the marker is $2,500. The hope is to raise the funds in time to place the marker up before the end of the year.

“This is a personal thing for me. From 17, I knew that working at the station was going to be my life’s work. When I came back from the army, the station was gone. End of dream. I’ve been living with that all my life. The marker is closure, both for my own experience and for the city of Birmingham.”

Marvin Clemons

How to help

Terminal Station and the Magic City Sign in the 1940s. The proposed historical marker would be at this site. Photo by O.V. Hunt, via Marvin Clemons.

“It’s too late to save the station, but we CAN help preserve its place in Birmingham’s history by raising a marker in its memory.”

Marvin Clemons

There are two ways to support the mission:

  • Send a donation to Jefferson County Historical Association, Attn: Harry Bradford, P.O. Box 130285, Birmingham AL 35213
  • Donate online to the GoFundMe

If you’d like to learn more about the station and see exclusive photos, check out Marvin Clemons’ book. You can purchase Great Temple of Travel online or at Vulcan Park’s exhibit on Birmingham Terminal Station.

Share your pictures and memories of Terminal Station by tagging us @BhamNow !

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Nathan Watson
Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.
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