Step back in time at the Bessemer Hall of History

Bessemer Train Station
The Bessmer Hall of History, located inside the old Southern Railroad Depot. Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Looking for something to do this weekend? Why not plan a visit to the Bessemer Hall of History? Located on the outskirts of downtown Bessemer, the Hall of History has something for everyone—photographs, books, antique machinery and many more artifacts from early days of The Marvel City. Check it out!

Have you visited the Bessemer Hall of History?

A “Summer Fun Thru The Decades” display at the Bessemer Hall of History. Photo via Bessemer Hall of History on Facebook

As a Tennessee native, I’ve often internally considered the Bessemer/Birmingham dynamic to be similar to the Franklin/Nashville relationship. And just like Franklin, Bessemer has a small (but mighty!) museum—the Bessemer Hall of History.

The museum has been around since 1969 and is dedicated to the history of the city of Bessemer. Inside, you’ll find a wide variety of artifacts dating back to the late 1800s, many of which relate to The Marvel City’s history as a mining & steelmaking hub.

Located in a Historic Train Depot

The facility is housed within the old Alabama Great Southern Railroad depot, a historic train depot that served passengers from 1916 until the late 1970s. After sitting vacant for more than a decade, the City of Bessemer re-dedicated the building as a new museum in 1987, during Bessemer’s centennial celebration.

I spoke with Jason Burnett, author of Early Bessemer, to learn more.

Jason: “The facility itself is in the old Southern Railroad Depot, that was originally the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. They own about a block there, and within that block is probably the most concentrated collection of railroad structures in the state, and possibly the entire South!”

What are the must-sees at the Bessemer Hall of History?

Jason: “You’ll definitely want to check out the photography collection when you visit. The Hall of History has an extraordinary collection of photographs, many dating back to the early days of the city. Another collection they have is the Bessemer Weekly, a digitized & searchable newspaper from back in the day.

One of the special collections at the museum is a cell door from the prison cell that Martin Luther King, Jr. was kept in. A lot of people don’t know this, but when Martin Luther King, Jr. was first arrested in Birmingham, he was brought to the Bessemer courthouse and spent that first night in the courthouse jail—that’s where the cell door originates.”

Aside from the Hall of History, what else should visitors see in Bessemer?

Jason: “If you’re in Bessemer, you need to eat at The Bright Star. Bob Sykes Bar-B-Que is also a must. There are some remarkable historic homes in the area, such as the McAdore House (one of the oldest homes in Jefferson County) and the Saddler house!”

Trust Me—Bessemer is Worth the Visit

Bright Star
The exterior of The Bright Star, a fantastic meat & three restaurant in Bessemer AND the oldest restaurant in Alabama! Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

The Bessemer Hall of History is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00AM to 3:00PM, but the fun doesn’t stop there. There’s a ton of things to do in Bessemer, such as:

  • Grabbing an unforgettable meal at The Bright Star or Bob Sykes BBQ
  • Racing go-karts at the Alabama Autobahn Indoor Speedway
  • Hiking at the 349-acre Moss Rock nature preserve
  • Simply exploring the streets of historic downtown Bessemer
  • And more!

Oh, and don’t forget—Bessemer’s historic Sam Dunn’s Saloon is getting a full renovation!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Bessemer? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer + Photographer

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