Behind the scenes look at Birmingham’s Brown-Marx Building. Photos included!

Brown-Marx Building
The Brown-Marx under construction in 1907. You can also see the Woodward Building, the old Metropolitan Hotel, and the Frank Nelson building.. Photo via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on Facebook

The Brown-Marx Building is the last skyscraper on the Heaviest Corner on Earth to get a facelift—but renovations are on the horizon. Learn more about one of Birmingham’s oldest skyscrapers.

Fun Facts

An early engraving of the First National Bank of Birmingham building, where the Brown-Marx tower sits now. Photo via BhamWiki
  • Built on the site of Linn’s Folly: The Brown-Marx tower sits on the site of the old National Bank of Birmingham building, also known as Linn’s Folly. The 3-story building was Birmingham’s first multi-story commercial building and was finished in 1873.
  • Named after two early tenants: Otto Marx of Marx & Company and Eugene Brown of Brown Brothers were two of the earliest tenants of the structure. Since the owners rejected the name Eugeneotto Building early-on, the owners settled on Brown-Marx.

Early History of the Brown-Marx

Brown-Marx Building
From 1906 to 1908, the Brown-Marx tower was half the size it is now. Photo via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on FacebookPhoto via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on Facebook

Built in 1906, the Brown-Marx Building is the second-oldest building on the Heaviest Corner on Earth, following the Woodward Building (1902). Once completed, the 16-story skyscraper was Birmingham’s tallest building, until the Empire Building went up three years later.

Although it wasn’t Birmingham’s tallest building, the Brown-Marx was one of its most popular. The success of the Brown-Marx encouraged iron magnate William Woodward to purchase the building in 1908. Over the next two years, Woodward doubled the size of the building with the U-shaped expansion we recognize today.

Architecture

Brown-Marx Building
Brown-Marx Tower in the 1900s. Photo via Hahn’s Historic Birmingham on Facebook

As with most early buildings in Birmingham, the architects took great care to make the Brown-Marx as beautiful as possible. On the outside, the intricate banding and arched windows eventuated the light-colored brick of the facade. In addition, the ground floor’s stone exterior showcased retail goods behind broad glass windows. Local Alabama marble decorated the interior of the building, and the top of the tower was topped off with a decorative cornice. Although many of these ornate decorations were removed throughout the years, the building is still an impressive sight.

A Promising Future

After years of decline, the last remaining tenants of the Brown-Marx abandoned the building in the early 2000s. Although several movements planned to renovate the building into apartment lofts, none made it past the planning stage.

Then, an LLC affiliated with Ascent Hospitality purchased the building in January 2018. Ascent Hospitality previously renovated the Elyton Hotel next door. Ascent quickly got to work on the building.

Learn More About Birmingham’s Historic Buildings

Want to learn more about Birmingham’s beautiful historic buildings? Check out these previous articles.

Which of Birmingham’s historic buildings would you like to read about next? Tag @bhamnow and let us know!

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