Alabama #5: Linn Park

A series of Wednesday (Thursday this week) posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area.  See Post #1,  Post #2, Post #3, and Post #4. This is Post #5.

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Linn Park in Birmingham, Alabama is located in the center of the government buildings and civic and commercial buildings – it is the heart of the Birmingham – Jefferson (County) Civic Center. On a beautiful spring day, it was the perfect place for strolling and looking at the Alabama blue sky.
Linn Park

Linn Park

Linn Park History, as seen on plaque in park

Linn Park History, as seen on plaque in park

Linn Park map, close up

Linn Park map, close up

[Summarized from the plaque, seen above]. The park has a long and interesting history. In 1871 the city plat map identified the space as “Park” but was then called “Central Park” before being named “Capitol Park” in 1881. At that time, it was the center of residential neighborhood.  In 1918 the park was renamed “Woodrow Wilson Park” and a master plan in 1919 proposed that this site be the civic center of the city.  Soon after the plan, an auditorium, a library, and the Jefferson County Courthouse were built. They still surround the park today.  Over the next few decades, the remaining houses were demolished to create lots for City Hall and the Birmingham Museum of Art. The park was renamed Linn Park in 1980 to honor Charles Linn, the city’s first banker and industrialist.

Jefferson County Court House, Linn Park

Jefferson County Court House, Linn Park

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Spanish American War Memorial, Linn Park

World War I Memorial, Linn Park

World War I Memorial, Linn Park

Today, one entrance to the park greets visitors with statues honoring the Spanish-American War and World War I.  Beautiful reflecting pools and a waterfall welcome people to sit and linger and enjoy the warm weather.  A flower garden in the shape of the state of Alabama is obviously more visible to workers in the skyscrapers rather than those of us on the ground, especially when attempting to read “Reach for the Stars” in the design.  While it is almost impossible to read from the ground, it is nice to know the businessmen can be connected to park dwellers. Spring and summer seasons bring concerts and other events to Linn Park, and the gazebo provides a perfect stage.  

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Reach for the Stars, in the shape of AL

On this beautiful spring weekend, walking in the water felt perfect. It was a shame that it wasn’t concert season. If you are visiting, definitely take a walk through Linn Park.

The reflecting pool and court house, Linn Park

The reflecting pool and court house, Linn Park

The perfect place on warm spring day, Linn Park

Alabama #2: Downtown Birmingham Streets & Buildings

 A series of Wednesday posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area. See Post #1.  This is Post #2.

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Most everyone who asks about our trip to Birmingham wants to know our first impressions, since they have not visited nor do they think of Birmingham in the modern day sense. What is there, they ask.  My preservation influenced first impressions? Downtown Birmingham is an interesting place. And no, I don’t know what I expected because I hadn’t imagined visiting Birmingham until recently.

The afternoon began in the Arts district at a great locally owned coffee shop and cafe, Urban Standard.  With exposed brick walls, locally made gifts, delicious food and cupcakes, antiques, wifi, and great coffee, it is certainly a nice place for breakfast, lunch, or coffee. This part of downtown was fairly busy, including the company of a herd of skateboarders going up and down the street while being filmed.  Down the block are loft apartments and a few stores. It seems like the area is experiencing a resurgence of interest from citizens and many buildings are undergoing rehabilitation into apartments.

Urban Standard

Urban Standard

Interesting home accessories for sale

Interesting home accessories for sale

Brick walls and coffee

Brick walls and coffee

A beautiful latte sitting on the counter, an antique store display case

A beautiful latte sitting on the counter, an antique store display case

We walked around on a Saturday afternoon, a truly beautiful day with 70 degree, sunny weather, the first nice weekend of the season.  Despite this, the city felt very empty in places. Near the government offices, this made sense since most people do not work on weekends. A few people, but not a crowd by any means, sat in beautiful park, Linn Park, in the center blocks of these buildings (courthouse, libraries, city hall). And the skateboarders appeared again. Linn Park will be the subject of a separate post.

After Linn Park, we walked down a typical historic streetscape, but one with very intriguing buildings that call upon decades earlier. Once again, this section seemed oddly lacking pedestrians. Some stores were in business, others in transitions, and still other buildings sat vacant.

Third Ave in downtown Birmingham

Third Ave in downtown Birmingham

More of the Third Ave streetscape

More of the Third Ave streetscape

One store, formerly Kessler’s, showcased an unusual storefront window.  Today this building is being converted into seven loft apartments with commercial space on the first floor. See this University of Alabama – Birmingham article for a discussion on downtown Birmingham lofts. This was my favorite building and these pictures cannot do it justice (cars would have obstructed better photographs).

Entrance to Kessler's

Entrance to Kessler's

Kessler's storefront - quite impressive! Note the matching floor and ceiling swirl and curved glass windows

Kessler's storefront - quite impressive! Note the matching floor and ceiling swirl and curved glass windows

Another interesting storefront was the California Fashion Mall.

On the corner of Third Ave and 19th Street

On the corner of Third Ave and 19th Street

Further down on Third Avenue is the Alabama Theater, the showcase of the South, and one that deserves its own post.

Downtown Birmingham is large and small at the same time. Obviously, there is a lot to talk about – it won’t fit in one post. Before citizens of Birmingham correct me, let me clarify that I realize that Kelly Ingram Park is also in downtown Birmingham, as some other sites I mention will be; but some places such as Kelly Ingram Park deserve their own post. Granted, some of the talk is about empty buildings; however, don’t let that lead you to assume that Birmingham is sleeping and a boring place. As our friend and host said, you have to look for something to do, but there is a lot to be found, from little shops to events to art galleries to good restaurants and more. See his recommendations at bhamsandwich.com.

For those interested in early to mid century architecture, the streets of Birmingham provide endless entertainment. Birmingham seems like it’s an up-and-coming place, one that will revitalize itself with years of hard work by citizens and growing interest from the students of the numerous universities in and around Birmingham.  Parts of downtown are a bit lonely, but not lonely in the sense of rundown and abandoned – just missing people. I would expect that more people will find their way downtown in the near future. But, now would be the time to visit so you can see the before and so you arrive before prices increase! It is an intriguing place.

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More posts about downtown Birmingham attractions to come next Wednesday.