15 things you never knew about our city—just in time for Birmingham Day

Sunset view of Birmingham skyline
Our favorite birthday to celebrate and our favorite city to call home. Photo via Railroad Park on Facebook

Today is a very special day—Birmingham’s birthday! On December 19, 1871, the beautiful city of Birmingham was incorporated by the state of Alabama. To celebrate Birmingham Day, we’re sharing 15 things you might not know about the Magic City.

1. Rickwood Field is the nation’s oldest professional baseball stadium

Postcard of Rickwood Field with text The South's Finest Base Ball Park in Birmingham, Alabama
Rickwood Field was the first home of the Birmingham Barons. Photo via Rickwood Field on Facebook

In 1910, the innovative owner of the Birmingham Barons, Rick Woodward, built Rickwood Field. The field was originally built for the Birmingham Barons, but it soon became home to the Birmingham Black Barons.

You might recognize Rickwood Field from popular baseball movies like “Cobb” (1994), “Soul of the Game” (1995), and “42” (2012). If you prefer to watch baseball in real life, Rickwood Field is home of the “Rickwood Classic” where Barons players dress in period uniforms.

2. Birmingham has a namesake across the pond

Birmingham Day - photo of floral china and flowers from the Etiquette School of Birmingham
Time for tea. Photo via the Etiquette School of Birmingham on Facebook

Did you know Birmingham, UK is our sister city? Birmingham, Alabama got its name from the English city, but we have even more than our name in common.

Both Birminghams were industrial. Birmingham, UK was the industrial hub of England, and Birmingham, Alabama has the nickname “Steel City” and “Iron City” because of its close proximity to all three materials for making steel.

Anglophiles don’t have to head to the UK to learn proper etiquette for afternoon tea. The Etiquette School of Birmingham offers etiquette courses and lessons for taking tea.

Aside from etiquette, the Magic City has the second largest collection of Wedgwood outside of the UK. You can check them out at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

3. The World Games 2022 will take place in Birmingham

Things you didn't know about Birmingham for Birmingham Day - The World Games 2022 at Legion Field
The world will have its eyes on Birmingham in 2022. Photo via The World Games 22 on Facebook

What better way to celebrate Birmingham Day than to look forward to the city’s future? Our countdown is on because The World Games 2022 will take place in Birmingham.

The event follows the Summer Olympics and features 11 days of competition for over 3,600 international athletes. Plus, UAB professor Dr. Panion will be the Artistic Director for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Games.

4. Birmingham has produced some of our favorite actors, entertainers, and writers

Every time you watch Courtney Cox in “Friends” or listen to Gucci Mane, you’re enjoying a few of Birmingham’s talented citizens. Other notable Birminghamians include Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, outstanding basketball player Charles Barkley and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

On this Birmingham Day, we also want to celebrate the amazing Birmingham citizens whose names we might not know: our healthcare workers, essential workers, educators and everyone doing their part to help Birmingham throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Celebrate Birmingham Day by learning about the haunts in the Ham

Black and white photo of the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham
Alabama theatre is home to some of our favorite memories… and possibly ghosts. Photo via the Alabama Theatre on Facebook

With a history of almost 150 years, it’s no wonder that Birmingham has a few haunted spots. The Alabama Theatre is apparently one of the most haunted spots in the city.

In 1986, organist Cecil Whitmire and a singer believed they saw a ghost while rehearsing at night. Who did they think the ghost was? Stanleigh Malotte, the previous organist of the Alabama Theatre.

6. CNN Travel spotlighted Birmingham as a surprising foodie city

Plate of crab cake with green beans and roasted potatoes from Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham
When we think of Birmingham cuisine, we think of Frank Stitt—and so does CNN. Photo via Highlands Bar and Grill on Facebook

CNN Travel named Birmingham as a surprising foodie city this year. For those of us who spend our days brunching our way through Birmingham, this title isn’t too much of a surprise.

7. Legion Field is the home of the Magic City Classic and the original home of the Iron Bowl

Black and white photo of Alabama cheerleaders running onto Legion Field - Birmingham, Alabama
Nothing like a great Iron Bowl. Photo via Paul W. Bryant Museum on Facebook

No matter who you’re cheering for, chances are you enjoy football as much as we do. Legion Field was the original home of the Iron Bowl from 1948 to 1988 and the location even gave the classic rivalry game its name.

While the Iron Bowl no longer takes place in Legion Field, the Magic City Classic is a yearly favorite. This game between Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University is the largest HBCU event in the nation. Talk about a field with a legacy.

8. The inventor of the windshield wiper, Mary Anderson, lived in Birmingham

Grave of Mary Anderson in Elmwood Cemetery
Mary Anderson’s grave in Elmwood Cemetery. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Every time you use your windshield wipers on a rainy day, you can thank Mary Anderson. She was born in 1866 in Greene County and came up with the idea for the windshield wipers while visiting NYC.

Mary Anderson is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. In 2011, she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

9. The dance floor in Saturday Night Fever was inspired by The Club

Dance floor of bright colored squares at The Club in Birmingham
A dance floor that’s movie-worthy. Photo via The Club on Facebook

John Badham, the film director—and Indian Springs graduate—has shared that the colorful dance floor was inspired by The Club.

In 1999, John presented The Club with an autographed Saturday Night Fever poster.

10. Red Mountain Park is 40% larger than Central Park

Green space at Red Mountain Park
Views like this have me green with envy for sunny days. Photo via Red Mountain Park on Facebook

Birmingham is known for its large green space with options like Railroad Park and Ruffner Mountain. Plus, Red Mountain Park is 40% larger than New York City’s Central Park so there’s no shortage of space to enjoy.

Whether you want to go for a hike or enjoy a cup of coffee in the fresh air, you’ll have plenty of green spaces in Birmingham to choose from.

11. Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports has the world’s largest motorcycle museum

Rows of motorcycles in Barber Motorsports Park
No wonder this is record-breaking. Photo via Barber Motorsports Park on Facebook

According to Guinness World Records, Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park is the largest in the world. The museum features 1,398 unique exhibits and the world’s largest collection of vintage and contemporary motorcycles.

When George Barber received the honor, he said, “I want to use it as a tool to help bring more people to Birmingham.”

12. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world

Vulcan statue overlooking Birmingham
One of our favorite views. Photo via Vulcan Park and Museum on Facebook

Nothing says Birmingham more than our beloved Vulcan statue. Beyond being a symbol of the Iron City, Vulcan is the world’s largest cast-iron statue.

The statue features the Roman god of metalworking to represent Birmingham’s place in the steel and iron industry. Birmingham Day is a great opportunity to celebrate all things Birmingham, so pay Vulcan a visit today.

13. Happy Birmingham Day—be sure to visit the “Heaviest Corner on Earth”

Four tallest buildings in Birmingham and sky with clouds in the Heaviest Corner on Earth
We love views like this. Photo via Steel City Urbex on Facebook

On the corner of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North, you’ll find the Heaviest Corner on Earth. The corner got its name because it was surrounded by four of the tallest buildings in the South at the time: John Hand, Woodward, Empire and Brown-Marx.

In 1985, the group of four buildings were listed as a historic district.

14. We celebrate Veterans Day because of a Birmingham veteran

Street view of Veterans Day Parade in Birmingham, AL
We missed the Veterans Day parade this year. Photo via National Veterans Day Birmingham on Facebook

In 1911, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th to be Armistice Day, and in 1945, World War II veteran and Birmingham native Raymond Weeks led a delegation to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans.

President Reagan gave Weeks a Presidential Citizenship Medal, and today when we celebrate Veterans Day, we can look back to a Birmingham citizen. Now, Birmingham’s Veterans Day Parade is the longest-lasting in the country.

15. There’s a famous story of an underground river in Birmingham—but it isn’t true

Caldwell Park
Birmingham’s Caldwell Park likely has a spring underneath it. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

You might have heard of the 300ft-wide, underground river that runs underneath our city, thanks to the fictional stories of Joseph Mulhatton. In the late 1800s, Mulhatton wrote fictional stories to send to news organizations.

In 1884, the Birmingham Iron-Age published his report of the imagined underground river, “Underneath Us“. Even though his “discovery” was a tall tale, it continues to leave a legacy over a century later.

How will you celebrate Birmingham Day? Let us know by tagging @bhamnow on social!

Cecilia Wood
Cecilia Wood
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