A spotlight on the budding, historic Norwood neighborhood + LeNell’s Beverage Boutique

Big things are happening in Norwood. Photo by Chaise Sanders for Bham Now

Just North of the city center sits some of Birmingham’s most picturesque boulevards and historic houses. This area is called Norwood—a neighborhood unknown to some but beloved by many. Here you’ll find wide, winding streets similar to Highland Avenue in Southside and a beverage boutique owned by a businesswoman encouraging revitalization while shaking up the craft beverage scene. Let’s take a closer look.

A little bit about Norwood

Developed in 1910, Norwood was originally planned as a streetcar suburb similar to Forest Park, Edgewood and Avondale. I guess you could consider this neighborhood the Mountain Brook of Birmingham before there was even a Mountain Brook.

Some called it “The Placid Place” because its location was unbeatable and you were able to live a city life without the city pollution. It’s just a few walkable blocks from Norwood to what we now know as the Uptown district.

The houses are grandiose and even caught the eye of Charles Carraway in 1916. He was so impressed that he brought his hospital, Carraway Hospital, to the neighborhood.

Norwood’s evolution through the 1900’s

Pretty enough to put on the front of a postcard. Photo via Troy Libraries Digital Archives

In the 1930s the surge in automobile ownership followed by school integration led to white, affluent families moving away from the city center and to “over the mountain” suburbs. As African-American communities were displaced by construction projects like the 1-20/59 interstate and airport, many set their eyes on Norwood. Beautiful houses, proximity to the city and an upcoming neighborhood? I’d move in too!

Just like humans, neighborhoods have life cycles. The birth of Norwood was grand and introduced an architecturally stunning area. Over time neighborhoods grow, age and change.

Let’s take a trip back in time. Photo via Postcard Memory Palace

The building of new houses came to a halt around the 1950s and 60s. It was the ideal place to settle down and raise a family. As many of the residents began to grow older and second generations moved away, some houses were unable to receive the TLC they needed over several years.

So what is Norwood up to now?

James Clark’s beautiful Norwood home. Photo via James Clark

Many of Norwood’s properties sit vacantly. However, one thing you can’t deny is the beauty and architectural integrity these houses will always offer. In recent years, new homeowners have taken notice of Norwood and the renewal of the neighborhood is happening as you read this.

As a matter of fact, we’re going to take a look into one of Norwood’s gems, LeNell’s Beverage Boutique.

LeNell’s Beverage Boutique

In 2011, LeNell Camacho Santa Ana decided to make The Magic City her home. After living in New York City and Baja California Sur, Mexico, the writer, educator, entrepreneur and Olympic torch bearer set her sights on Norwood where she began LeNell’s Beverage Boutique.

Did you know LeNell’s has the state’s largest American whiskey selection? Photo by Jacob Blankenship

 I ran across the property where the store is on Craigslist and could not stop thinking about it. When I flew here to check it out, so many Norwood neighbors got excited about the possibility of my store being in the neighborhood. I was welcomed with open arms by so many amazing people that I took the plunge to invest here.

LeNell Camacho Santa Ana, businesswoman and resident of Norwood

One step inside LeNell’s and you’re in awe at the variety of whiskeys, organic wines, craft spirits, bourbons, vermouths and more. Honestly, you’ve probably never even tried most of them but LeNell and her staff have. Her rule of thumb is that, if it’s on the shelf for sale, it has her personal stamp of approval.

I liked that I saw young and old, black and white, gay and straight working together as Norwood neighbors. In addition to all the great residents, the historic architecture, the proximity to downtown, the winding boulevard, and real estate affordability were big pluses.

Like Norwood, LeNell’s carefully curated collection drips in elegance and diversity. The boutique features wines from sustainable farms as well as female winemakers and winemakers of color.

Next to the beverage boutique you can’t help but marvel at the multi-story, Greek-revival Copeland mansion. Since the area has been established as a historic zone, LeNell has big plans for the house including restoring it to its 1905 glory. Her goal is to open a cafe that serves healthy food, offers community yoga and a meditation space.

Copeland mansion. Photo by Chaise Sanders for Bham Now

I don’t know about you but the Copeland mansion sounds like it’s going to be the place to be! In the meantime, you can catch a free outdoor yoga and meditation class led by LeNell followed by Athletic Brewary’s non-alcoholic beer tasting in the shop.

  • Where: Norwood Boulevard at 16th Avenue
  • When: August 8th
  • Yoga @ 10:30AM | Tasting @ 12PM-3PM

If you’re fascinated and wanting more, check out LeNell’s Beverage Boutique’s Instagram, Facebook and sign up for their email list to stay up to date on sales.

No, this isn’t Highlands Ave. It’s Norwood’s boulevards.Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

When asked what she’d like to see for the future of the community, here’s what LeNell said:

One thing I like to draw attention to is Norwood was never forgotten. Many Black families have lived here for decades and fought the fights against blight, public safety, education and all the things we love in a good neighborhood. Those families’ struggles and the challenges of systemic racism definitely contributed to real estate prices being deflated here. It is exciting to see vacant homes be renovated and sold to eager families of all colors, but it is important to remind people that many Black families have worked hard to keep their yards nice and their homes maintained all along even in the middle of many challenges all around them. Not everyone has had the same access to resources.

With plans for Northside Park and it’s proximity to Downtown, Norwood is definitely a neighborhood on my radar for the future. As a Birmingham native, I’m looking forward to the revitalization of this community.

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  • Chaise is a brunch-loving Content Producer and helps manage the Bham Now Instagram account.