Where did the “First Alabama v. Auburn Game” Historical Marker go? Here’s the answer

Lakeview
First Alabama-Auburn Game Historical Marker in Birmingham. Picture taken in 2016. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

I found out one of my favorite historical markers had disappeared on Twitter.  

Earlier this week, a fantastic AL.com in-depth story about the history of the first Iron Bowl – Alabama-Auburn game revealed the historical marker on the corner of Clairmont Ave. and 32nd Street was missing. This is not any ordinary marker—it’s the marker recognizing where the first Alabama-Auburn Game was played.  

Suddenly, I was experiencing one of those classic “where did it go?” moments that happen on social media every once and while. Since it’s an Iron Bowl week and Thanksgiving week…I was on the case.

First, a confession. As a resident of Southside Birmingham, I drive by this particular marker probably 10 times a week. It’s a popular historical marker, especially for football fans. In fact, I’ve actually taken visitors to it. I’m sorta embarrassed to admit I didn’t recognize it was missing.

First Call

Lakeview Park and Lake 1890s
Lakeview Park on Birmingham’s Southside in 1890s. Photo courtesy of Bhamwiki.com

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I spent this past Monday searching for the marker. Felt a little bit litke I was hunting for hidden treasure without a map! 

My first call went out to a friend at PNC, since it looked like the marker was on their property (I can’t really tell if it’s on the right-of-way or not). She was going to ask around for me while I did some additional snooping elsewhere. To give PNC’s role a little more context, they’ve been in the midst of the big changeover from BBVA to PNC. The grounds of their newly-acquired operations center is the baseball field where the first Iron Bowl was played.

Investigation 

While she tracked down folks at PNC Bank for answers—on a holiday week, I may add—I threw myself into the case. I called: 

  • Alabama Historical Commission
  • Alabama Historical Association
  • City of Birmingham’s Public Works
  • Birmingham City Councilor Valerie Abbott’s Office
  • Highland Park Neighborhood President Elizabeth Sanfelippo

Heck, I even called Sewah Studios in Ohio! They are the folks that refurbish historical markers for the Alabama Historical Commission. 

A shout-out to everyone I called. Every one of them did their own bit of research, from searching emails and databases to even making calls on my behalf.

I did find out the sign has been there since 1987—a total of 34 years. 

FOUND! I guess…

Even though I had met some great folks who were very helpful, I was seriously considering filing a police report. Thank goodness, my friend at PNC came through. 

Late in the afternoon, their folks reached out to me and told me they were refurbishing the marker. They even provided me with an official statement for this story. 

“The Iron Bowl historical marker is presently out for restoration. PNC is pleased to have done so as a service to the Birmingham community.” 

Nick Willis, Greater Alabama Regional President for PNC

The good news: we never lost the marker; PNC was just being a good neighbor. Come to think of it, the last time I looked closely at the sign one side was very readable, while the other was really showing its age. It was almost an eyesore.

Final Thoughts

Final thoughts about the missing First Alabama-Auburn Football Game Historical Marker caper? 

I can’t wait to see the newly-restored marker. Way to go PNC. Thank you to everyone searching for it. 

And for myself, not recognizing it was missing?  That old Joni Mitchell lyric from Big Yellow Taxi comes to mind:

“Don’t it always seem to go —that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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