The history of the City Federal Building, one of Birmingham’s original skyscrapers [Photos]

The City Federal building in Birmingham at night. (Nathan Watson)

Of Birmingham’s many awe-inspiring skyscrapers, one stands out—especially at night. Since its construction in the early 1900s, the City Federal Building has caught the eye of both visitors and Birmingham locals, and residents of the Neoclassical tower have an unobstructed view of the city.

Keep reading to learn more about the history of Birmingham’s City Federal Building.

One of Birmingham’s earliest skyscrapers

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The City Federal Building under construction in the early 1900s. (Photo property of Birmingham Public Library Department of Archives & Manuscripts)

According to BhamWiki, Birmingham’s City Federal Building was originally built for the Jefferson County Savings Bank. Opened in 1913, the building—originally named the Jefferson County Savings Bank Building—topped out at 325 feet, making it the tallest skyscraper in the Southeast at the time.

FUN FACT: The City Federal Building held the title of the tallest skyscraper in Alabama from 1913 until 1969, when it was surpassed by Mobile’s AmSouth Bank Building.

However, the Jefferson County Savings Bank bit off more than they could chew, and the massive office building became a financial burden on the organization. The bank closed its doors in January 1915—a mere two years after the building was complete.

City Federal
The City Federal Building under construction in the early 1900s. (Photo property of Birmingham Public Library Department of Archives & Manuscripts)

FUN FACT: The City Federal Building was designed by William Weston, an architect that designed many of Birmingham’s most prominent buildings, including the Woodward Building, the Frank Nelson Building and the Brown-Marx Building.

Following the failure of the Jefferson County Savings Bank, the building was renamed as the Comer Building in honor of former Alabama Governor B.B. Comer.

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The City Federal Building at sunset, seen from 2nd Avenue North. (Nathan Watson)

In late 1962, the building was purchased by a new bank—City Federal Savings & Loan—and renamed once again as the City Federal Building. The new owners funded a $250,000 renovation of the building, which included the addition of the now-iconic neon rooftop sign and a City Federal sign along the side of the structure. However, the City Federal Savings & Loan bank failed in 1990—by 1994, the building was empty.

Conversion from Office Space to Residential Condominiums

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City Federal at dusk. (Nathan Watson)

After years of neglect, the City Federal Building was purchased by Atlanta-based developer Synergy Realty Services in 2005. The developer launched a massive $20M renovation plan to convert the office building into a residential space with 84 condominiums.

Although the developer initially had trouble finding buyers for the condominiums, the City Federal Building is now a popular residence in Birmingham’s Central City and remains one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the South.

Want to learn more about Birmingham’s beautiful historic buildings? Check out these previous articles:

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Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer at Bham Now

Articles: 699