If you’re anything like me you’ve found yourself bopping around Birmingham, come across a massive fairytale-style castle, and had a few questions. This eccentric structure is the Quinlan Castle–it contains 72 apartments and has quite a curious history. Today it is currently uninhabited. Dig in.
A Little Bit of History🏰
Settled on the northwest corner of 9th Avenue South and 21st Street South, the castle was built in 1927. According to Bhamwiki, Quinlan’s remarkable theme was inspired by two investors who were greatly impressed by the French castles they came across while serving abroad during World War I. Wanting to bring this one-of-a-kind style to the great city of Birmingham, they teamed up with architects William Weston and H.P. Hanna who completed the project.
An advertisement in 1929 made the doubtful, yet very striking claim that its design was based on “the actual plans of a medieval English castle”–I think I’m going to pretend this is true because wow.
Its name comes from Quinlan Avenue, which is now 9th Avenue South. The avenue was named after Bishop Quinlan of the Catholic Diocese of Mobile–he had purchased the land and its surrounding areas to potentially serve as the site for Birmingham’s first Catholic Church.
Rumor Has It
For a while rumors surrounded the structure deeming it the “Birmingham headquarters for the Communist Party”. Interestingly enough, party secretary Robert Hall lived there. In 1940, the castle was raided by Birmingham police.
The police didn’t find anything too incriminating other than a letter from a Tennessee Valley Authority employee that suggested some Communist activity within that agency. This *not so great* publicity caused the owners to change its name to the Royal Arms Apartments, reported Bhamwiki .
The Castle Today
For years the castle served as a home for many, with a number of one-bedroom apartments. However, after being around for so long and its condition worsening, the structure’s future was becoming increasingly uncertain. In 1993, it became property of the city of Birmingham and has been vacant since the mid 90s.
In 1995 it was revamped as the city polished its exterior, incorporated new landscaping and signs, and renovated the apartments. By the year 1998, it was included on the Places in Peril list of the Alabama Historical Commission.
Beginning in 1999, there were varying proposals of what to do with the structure. This included renovating it to 20-30 luxury apartments, adjusting it to provide student housing for UAB students to even demolishing it for additional parking for the Southern Research Institute. In 2008, the Southern Research Institute purchased the building and cleaned its inside replacing the windows, roof, and turrets. They are working with the Birmingham Historical Society on how to best uphold the building–they plan to preserve the appearance and character of the castle.