Happy 150th Birthday Birmingham! The future is bright (Video)

Birmingham skyline at Railroad Park – 2021. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Happy Birthday Birmingham! 

150 years ago on December 19th, 1871, the Alabama State Legislature officially chartered the city of Birmingham. 

Established at the crossing of two rail lines near one of the world’s richest deposits of minerals, the city was named after Birmingham, England, the center of Britain’s iron industry. 

Vulcan Fireworks
Thunder on the Mountain 2020. Photo via Nathan Watson

Fun fact: Other names were considered, based on the last names of several city founders:… Milnerville, Powellton, Morriston and Mudd Town. 

Makes you wonder if the city would have prospered with one of those other names. 

The Magic City

As we all know, the small industrial town grew rapidly, evolving in a generation from a boom town to a civilized city with telephones, trolleys, teachers and public schools. From 1900 to 1920 — Birmingham’s population skyrocketed from 38,000 to 178,800, becoming the 3rd most populous city in the South behind Atlanta and New Orleans.

This growth earned Birmingham the nickname, The Magic City.

Epicenter of Civil Rights

A.G. Gaston
Mayor Woodfin’s press conference announcing the beginning of the restoration of the A.G. Gaston Motel along with BCRI’s founder Odessa Woolfolk. Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

In the 1960s,  Birmingham became the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement, led by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. several monumental events in American history took place in the city. They included:

These events in 1963, brought  national and global national attention — ending segregation.

Reinventing Birmingham

Shipt downtown Birmingham, Alabama headquarters. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Since the 1970s, Birmingham has witnessed the demise of the mining, iron and steel industry. Called “Smoke Town” by truckers traveling through the city, Birmingham lost mills and steel related industries  that once employed thousands employees —Ensley Works, Stockham Valve and the Wenonah and Ishkooda ore mines to name a few. 

Today, thanks to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, The Magic City is a leader in numerous medical fields and research. The city is also a leader in banking and the newest wave of successful start-ups, notably Shipt and Landing. 

Birmingham – Built to Last

For the past six months the city has held numerous celebrations and events. On the day of the 150th Birthday, Mayor Randall Woodfin unveiled a special Birthday video.

Check it out.

Celebrate 150th

Looking for ways to celebrate the big 150? You still have a few hours to submit a 150 word Love Letter to Birmingham. We also suggest visiting Vulcan’s Magical Nights and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Tell us what you are doing for Birmingham’s birthday! Tag us on social media @BhamNow

Pat Byington
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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