5 ways to honor Birmingham’s 149th birthday on June 1

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Isn’t Birmingham a magical place to be? Photo via The World Games

Today, June 1, is Birmingham’s birthday. Here are a few ways you can honor 149 magical years—plus a small history lesson.

Happy Birthday, Birmingham 🎂

Hand-drawn map of Birmingham in 1885. Photo via Library of Congress

On June 1, 1871, the Elyton Land Company began to sell lots in the newly-founded city of Birmingham. The first settlers chose the location due to the natural deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone — the three main materials used in making steel. From the very beginning, the city was planned as a major industrial hub in the South. Thus, the founders named it after England’s main industrial city, Birmingham.

Despite a cholera epidemic and a recession, Birmingham grew quickly as new people flocked to the city for opportunity. The rapid growth earned Birmingham the nickname “The Magic City”—and, well, the name stuck.

Here are a few monumental milestones in Birmingham’s history:

  • 1863: Oxmoor Furnaces, the first blast furnaces in the Birmingham area, are blown in.
  • Feb 22, 1893: UA and Auburn play the first Iron Bowl on Lakeview Park—Auburn wins.
  • 1904: Vulcan, the largest cast-iron statue in the world, represents Birmingham at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
  • 1910: Birmingham annexed several surrounding towns, increasing the city’s size from 3 to 48 square miles and more than doubling Birmingham’s population.
  • Oct. 26, 1921: President Warren G. Harding visits Birmingham and calls for political equality for African-Americans.
  • 1939: After decades in the Alabama Fairgrounds, Vulcan finds a permanent home atop Red Mountain.
  • Dec. 4, 1948: Auburn and Alabama bury a hatchet—both literally and symbolically—in Woodrow Wilson Park to signify the end of the disagreement about the Iron Bowl.
  • 1950s-1960s: Birmingham became the center of the Civil Rights Movement, staging marches, sit-ins, boycotts and more to protest against racial inequality.
    • Sept. 1957: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and his two daughters attempt to integrate Phillips High School.
    • May 14, 1961: Members of the KKK attack the Freedom Riders as they arrive in Birmingham.
    • 1963: Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders launch the Children’s Crusade, a non-violent protest originating at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
    • Sept. 15, 1963: The KKK bombs the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls and injuring a fifth.
  • Nov. 13, 1979: Richard Arrington Jr. is sworn in as Birmingham’s first black mayor.

1. Support Local Businesses

One of the most magical aspects of Birmingham is due to our small businesses. Whether it’s our one-of-a-kind breweries, our award-winning restaurants or our unique retailers, Birmingham is who we are because of our small businesses.

Supporting our local businesses is important, now more than ever. That’s why Bham Now wants to use our platform to help support local businesses and nonprofits. Check out over 600 breweries, restaurants, bars and other local services on our Local Business Guide—and if you own one, fill out our quick form to be featured on Bham Now’s database for FREE.

2. Learn from our history on the Civil Rights Heritage Trail

Opened in 2009, the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail is an interactive trail that links historic sites in Birmingham regarding the Civil Rights Movement. The signs throughout Birmingham give a background to events that happened at the location.

3. Immerse Yourself in Bham History with BhamWiki

Miss Fancy, the star of the Avondale Zoo. Photo via BhamWiki

Did you know an elephant named Miss Fancy once led a parade of students to a football game at Legion Field? Or that a local once designed and sank a hand-built submarine in Edgewood Lake?

Birmingham has a rich and exciting history, and there is no better place to learn about it than BhamWiki. Now in its 14th year, BhamWiki has over 14,000 articles on just about any aspect of Birmingham you can think of.

P.S. Click the “random” button to be taken to a completely random article—who knows what you’ll discover!

4. Stroll Through Our Beautiful Parks

Views Overlook
The view from Hawk’s View Overlook at Ruffner Mountain is hard to beat. Photo via Ruffner Mountain on Facebook

The Magic City has no shortage of beautiful views, and some of the most unique perspectives can be found at our local parks. From Ruffer to Red Mountain, Turkey Creek to Railroad Park (and, of course, Vulcan Park), there are multiple places to take in Birmingham’s natural beauty while getting some fresh air.

If you can’t make it out, Alabama State Parks have gone virtual to bring the beauty of the outdoors to you through:

  • Virtual hikes
  • Live Facebook videos
  • Never-before-seen photos
  • Interesting park stories
  • Online challenges

5. Take a virtual Birmingham tour

What better way to brighten up your day than with flowers? Photo via Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens

On a regular day, admiring the art at the Birmingham Museum of Art or the flora at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens would be the perfect way to celebrate Birmingham. Although our ability to visit is currently limited, you can take a virtual tour—which is as close to perfect as we can get!

Birmingham Museum of Art: Take part in #BMAfromHome, which offers something for everyone, like:

  • Art classes
  • Live gallery talks
  • Mini-exhibitions
  • And more!

Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Take a virtual tour of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to see all the beautiful flowers, trees and more that Birmingham has to offer.

Here’s to another 149 years of magic. How will you help improve Birmingham? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know! 🎉

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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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