Behind the scenes look at the Woodward Building, Birmingham’s first steel-framed building

As the oldest skyscraper on the Heaviest Corner on Earth, the Woodward Building is certainly significant to Birmingham’s history. Let’s take a look at the history of this beautiful structure.

Fun Facts

Woodward Building
In this 1910 photo, you can see the Woodward on the left-hand side.
  • After the Birmingham City Commission made membership in the Communist Party a misdemeanor in 1950, an unknown person dropped hundreds of pro-Communist leaflets from the 10th floor of the Woodward.
  • As Birmingham’s first Chicago-school-style building, the Woodward brought a dramatic change to the Victorian and Classical Revival skyline of the city.
  • The Woodward’s architect, William Weston, would go on to design the Frank Nelson, Brown-Marx and City Federal buildings, among others.

History of the Woodward Building

Woodward Building
The Woodward Building under construction in 1901. Photo via BhamWiki

After the sale of his Woodward Iron Company, early Birminghamian William Woodward decided to use the money to construct a tower in downtown Birmingham. Woodward hired an architect named William Weston, who proposed a 10-story, 132 foot tall office tower on the southwest corner of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North.

Construction began in 1901, for a total cost of $350,000 (over $9 million in today’s money!) Although some critics doubted Birmingham had enough businesses to fill up the Woodward, the building was fully leased by completion.

Architecture

Woodward Building
“Why don’t you ever answer our letters?” reads an early postcard showing the Woodward in the 1900s.

The 10-story, 132 foot tall office tower is rooted in the Chicago school of architecture. Since Chicago school pioneered the use of steel frames in commercial buildings, it makes sense that the Woodward Building was the first steel-framed building in Birmingham.

The light brown brick facade of the Woodward accentuates its beautiful triple windows. Unlike the Brown-Marx, the Woodward kept its original elaborately-detailed metal cornice. Inside, the building is furnished in tile and marble in the hallways, oak paneling in the offices, and a gorgeous marble and wrought-iron staircase.

Present Day Use

Woodward Building
The Woodward Building in 2020. Photo via Bham Now

As of now, PNC Bank is closing down their office at the Woodward. However, several other businesses still work in the Woodward, including Ligon Industries.

Learn More About Birmingham’s Historic Buildings

The Woodward and other buildings in the Heaviest Corner on Earth.

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.