Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
PRIDE – HONOR – SERVICE

SLOSS FURNACES NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK is a 32-acre blast furnace plant where Pig-Iron was made. Limestone County native James Withers Sloss (1820-1890) was an industrialist who led the early development of the city of Birmingham, founding Sloss Furnaces in 1881. Sloss served the Confederacy during the Civil War and was a successful planter and businessman before moving to iron production. Now a museum of history and industry, the site preserves an extraordinary collection of buildings, industrial structures, and machinery. These industrial artifacts typify the first 100 years of Birmingham’s history and the technology that drove America’s rise to world industrial dominance. Sloss is the only 20th century blast furnace in the country that is being preserved and interpreted as a museum.

TANNEHILL STATE PARK – Founded in 1830 as a small plant for smelting iron, Tannehill expanded during the Civil War into a large battery of three blast furnaces capable of producing 22 tons of pig iron daily for Confederate military needs. The ironwo rks, along with a dozen other such facilities in Alabama, were badly damaged in the closing months of the Civil War. The remains of the furnaces, among the best preserved in the South, are the centerpiece of the 1,500-acre Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. The furnaces are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Civil War Discovery Trail.

ARLINGTON ANTEBELLUM HOME & GARDENS was constructed between 1845-50 by William S. Mudd in Elyton, the second county seat of Jefferson County and features Greek Revival architecture. Birmingham, a city that Mudd helped to establish, eventually grew to encompass the former site of Elyton. During the Civil War, General James H. Wilson, who conducted the largest Union raid into Alabama in the spring of 1865, established his Headquarters at Arlington while planning his raid to destroy Confederate factories and munitions at Selma. The house serves as a decorative arts museum, featuring a collection of 19th-century furniture, textiles, silver, and paintings. The garden features a restored garden room that is used for special events. Arlington is one of the only surviving structures from the time of Elyton and is Birmingham’s only antebellum mansion.

RUCKER PLACE listed in the National Register of Historic Places was built in 1900 by Civil War General Edmund Winchester Rucker as a wedding gift for his daughter. General Rucker served in the Civil War and came to Birmingham in the late 1880’s, built his home on a hill overlooking the city. He named the area Nabob Hill (now the site of Ramsay High School). The family lived in the home for 50 years, raising 5 children until their deaths in the early 1950’s. Soon afterwards other area families built their homes there. The families that lived there represent a major part of the history of the Five Points South residential area and the development of Birmingham. Rucker Place then became a doctor’s office until Jack and Gail Thompson purchased the house in the Fall of 2002 and did a complete renovation. Rucker Place is the only existing example of shingle-style architecture in Birmingham.

Oak Hill Cemetery, located just north of downtown, is Birmingham, Alabama’s oldest cemetery. Originally 21.5 acres on the estate of James M. Ware, was already a burial ground by April 1869 when it served as the resting place for the infant daughter of future mayor Robert H. Henley. It was marked as “City Cemetery” on the original plots for Birmingham laid out by the Elyton Land Company and was formally sold to the city on December 29, 1873 for the sum of $1,073.50. Most of the 10,000 or so burials at Oak Hill were interred before 1930, including nine of the ten landholders who founded the city, many early mayors, a Revolutionary soldier, numerous American Civil War veterans, and the first male child born in the city. In 1977, Oak Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The graves tell the story of the city’s growth, of its diversity, its times of sickness, and of its most colorful characters and pioneers. Members of the Oak Hill Cemetery Association, an all-volunteer group dedicated to preserving and promoting the cemetery, will dress in costume to portray famous characters buried there.

Brierfield Ironworks – known as Furnace Branch, a group of men calling themselves the Bibb County Iron Company built a furnace in 1862. Spurred on by the desire to make a fortune from the South’s desperate need for iron for war materials, the company was soon producing, in the words of a contemporary iron founder, “the toughest and most suitable iron for making guns above any other iron in the South.” The notoriety for making superior iron so impressed Richmond that in 1863, the Confederate government purchased the ironworks and soon added a second furnace and rolling mill. Of course, this reputation for making iron did not go unnoticed by Union authorities either. In the early morning hours of March 31, 1865, the Federal Tenth Missouri Cavalry saddled up in Montevallo and dashed to the Brierfield Ironworks. Within minutes, the works were in flames. After the war, the former Chief of Confederate Ordnance, and future University of Alabama president, Josiah Gorgas, organized a company to repair and operate the works. But these efforts ended in failure, and from 1873 to 1880, the furnaces at Brierfield were silent. Then, in the early 1880s, Thomas Jefferson Peter came to town. A former general manager of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Peter had big plans and money to back them up. He made Brierfield boom. Everything was new, better or bigger, and Brierfield was called the “Magic City of Bibb County.” By the end of the decade, however, the future was not so bright. The huge metal furnaces in the new city of Birmingham could produce ten times as much iron per day as the old brick furnace at Brierfield. Peter struggled on. Finally, in the cold darkness of Christmas Eve morning, 1894, the Brierfield furnace blew out forever.

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