Thursday, May 28, 2015

Birmingham Photos of the Day (33): Holy Family Hospital

In February 1941 four nurses---three of them nuns---from Nazareth, Kentucky, arrived in Ensley to open a clinic to serve poor blacks in the area. For a little over $12,000 they bought land, a duplex for the convent and "a little Negro hut" for the clinic. Interns from St. Vincent Hospital donated their services two days a week to the free clinic.

After the U.S. entered World War II, the Sisters of Charity were unable to obtain materials to build a clinic, so they added two more "huts" to the complex. In 1946 seven black physicians formed the first official medical staff, and fund raising efforts began in the city for a new building. By July 1950 some $250,000 had been raised.

On January 10, 1954, the new structure, Holy Family Hospital, was dedicated. After an expansion in 1964, the hospital had 83 beds and a staff of 130. Four years later the Sisters sold the facility and the new owners renamed it Community Hospital. After another sale and renaming to Medical Park West, the hospital closed in 1988. 

Further details can be found at BhamWiki. Currently vacant, the building at 1915 19th Street is owned by Faith Chapel Christian Center and was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2008. The Birmingham News published an article about the purchase of the hospital by Faith Chapel on October 13, 2006, pp. 1H and 8H, "Church shares new vision for historic hospital." The article includes three photos, two contemporary ones of the outside and inside a hallway of the facility. A third photo show Mervyn Sterne, John P. Newsome, Col. Wiliam S. Pritchard, and E.H. Gilmore at the groundbreaking in September 1952. Gilmore was a Jefferson County Commissioner.  

Below the photos is an article about the hospital published in the January 1963 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association.

The hospital occupied this building in 1953. This postcard is from the 1950's.

Source: Alabama Department of Archives & History

These photos of the front and back of the hospital were taken on December 6, 1954, for the Jefferson County Board of Equalization. 

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Here's a photograph of the front of the hospital taken in 2010.

Source: BhamWiki

Monday, May 25, 2015

Valhermoso Springs

Valhermoso Springs is a small community on Alabama Highway 36 in Morgan County. Although unincorporated, the place does have its own post office. There is also a cemetery

Mineral springs were discovered in the area by Lancelot Chunn around 1813. James Manning from Madison County operated a hotel at the site from 1818 until 1823. A post office opened in 1834 when the area was known as White Sulphur Springs; the present name was adopted in 1857. 

The previous year Jean J. Giers bought the hotel and turned it into a nationally known resort. The hotel finally closed in 1923 and was destroyed by tornado in 1950. The resort is described in some detail in James F. Sulzby's wonderful book, Historic Alabama Hotels and Resorts (1960).  

This advertisement extolling the resort's qualities appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal 17 May 1873 along with ads for other similar health springs. The ad appeared in numerous issues of that paper in 1872 and 1873.

Source: Library of Congress Chronicling America

Another site in Valhermoso Springs is the First Christian Church property featuring a "Trail of Scriptures" and a shaded picnic area. 

Valhermoso Springs, AL

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Riverchase Middle School Then & Now

In a previous post I covered the long history of schools in Pelham. The city created its own school system last year and new schools are on the horizon. Pelham Ridge Elementary is currently under construction on Applegate Parkway. Beginning in 2016 Valley Intermediate School will become Pelham Oaks Elementary.

A new middle school, Pelham Park, will open in 2017. Thus the public school future of Riverchase Middle School is growing shorter. As an article back in February noted, RMS has been sold to Shades Mountain Christian School. The 2016-17 school year will be the last one for Riverchase.

Both our children attended RMS, which opened in 1977. Daughter Becca was there 2000-2002; son Amos before that. On a recent Saturday Becca and I visited the RMS campus to take a little trip down memory lane. The photos below are hers; the comments are mine.

We immediately noticed the "rebranding" of the school; RMS used to be the Rams. Apparently all Pelham City Schools are now using the mascot and colors of the high school.

Here's what you see upon arrival at RMS; not much has changed there!

Here's the spot on the side of the school where students were dropped off and picked up when Amos and Becca were there. That process has been moved to the back of the school. 

Here and below are the field house and parts of the track which Becca said looked pretty much the same as when she was on the track team--except for the field house rebranding. 

Behind the school near a small creek we found this pair of Canada geese; three babies were also there and well camouflaged! 

UPDATE 1 October 2017

Pelham Ridge Elementary and Pelham Park Middle schools are both now open; the 2016-17 year was thus the last at Riverchase Middle. The original buyer, Shades Mountain Christian [now Heritage Christian] was eventually unable to purchase the campus due to financing issues. Instead Hoover City Schools has purchased RMS, and the finalization of that plan is currently underway. That school system is currently investigating the possibility of creating a Riverchase Center for Career Innovation on the site. Perhaps the middle school building will survive.

UPDATE 26 January 2019

On January 22 an article appeared in the Shelby County Reporter updating the status of the Hoover Schools' Riverchase Career Connection Center, or "RC3". The Center is expected to open in August. The Center will offer instruction in five areas: building sciences, culinary arts and hospitality, cyber innovation, health sciences, and fire and emergency services.

On a final personal note, I remember paging through several RMS scrapbooks that were available for perusal in the waiting area just outside the school office. I wonder what has happened to those historical items. 

Update 3 August 2019: The new facility was dedicated on August 1 and opens August 8. You can read more about it here and see 50 photos of the ceremony and "new" facility. 

Source: Hoover Sun

Monday, May 18, 2015

Memorial Days Past in Alabama

The holiday now known as Memorial Day has a convoluted history, but the purpose has always been to honor war dead. Ceremonies began after the Civil War in northern states and were known as "Decoration Day" for many years. On that day graves of military men who had died in that war were decorated with flowers. In 1873 New York became the first state to formally recognize the day. Southern states had their own celebrations on a different day until after World War I when the holiday changed to honor all American military personnel who had died in war. Many towns in the U.S. claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. 

Originally Memorial or Decoration Day was held on May 30, but in 1971 Congress passed the National Holiday Act which moved it to the last Monday in May. Several southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, which in Alabama is now the fourth Monday in April. That day was formally recognized by the state in 1901. 

As Americans can do so well, Memorial Day is now one of those holidays in which patriotism, capitalism and fun are all available.  

A few images and comments are below. 

Birmingham Weekly Iron Age 3 June 1886

"The Nation's Dead. Observance of Decoration Day in Various Places"

Long article almost 3 columns in length; note the reference to ceremonies continuing on a second day.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections


This article appeared in a newspaper published in Hawaii on 30 May 1912. The piece discusses celebrations around the country, including Alabama. 

Source: Library of Congress Chronicling America digital collection


This item appeared in a Minnesota newspaper on 26 April 1912. 

Source: Library of Congress Chronicling America digital collection


A newspaper published in Kansas on 18 September 1919 credited a woman in Georgia with creating Confederate Memorial Day.

Source: Library of Congress Chronicling America digital collection


This article from a South Dakota newspaper published on 28 May 1897 credits "the women of Alabama" for giving Memorial Day to the nation.

Source: Library of Congress Chronicling America digital collection 

Balloons in the 1980's at Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, a Memorial Day festival held at Point Mallard Park in Decatur. The event began in 1978.

Source: Alabama Department of Archives and History Digital Collections

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Old Alabama Stuff (5): Eggleston's Red Eagle & the Alabama Creek Indian Wars

William Weatherford or "Red Eagle" is an important figure in early Alabama history. He was a major leader of the Red Stick faction in the Creek War of 1813-14. On August 30, 1813, he and others led some 700 warriors in the attack on Fort Mims in what is today Baldwin County. The Red Sticks killed over half the 400 settlers who had taken refuge in the fort and captured 100 more. The resulting national outrage brought Andrew Jackson and his forces to Alabama; the decisive battle was fought at Horseshoe Bend the following March.

Alexander Meek, a major literary figure in Alabama before the Civil War, wrote a narrative poem about Weatherford, The Red Eagle: A Poem of the South. The Fort Mims battle is reenacted every year.   

In 1878 a man who probably never visited Alabama wrote a book about Weatherford and these events, Red Eagle and the Wars with the Creek Indians of Alabama. George Cary Eggleston was born in Vevay, Indiana, in November 1839. At seventeen he inherited the family plantation in Virginia, attended college in Richmond and at the outbreak of the Civil War joined the Confederate Army. He was present for the surrender at Appomattox. He wrote about his wartime experiences in A Rebel's Recollections, published in book form in 1875.

Before his death in 1911 Eggleston wrote several novels and other non-fiction works. His book on Red Eagle was published in the "Famous American Indians" series by Dodd, Mead and Company. His older brother Edward Eggleston, also a writer, published books in the series as well. George Eggleston did live in Mississippi for some period after the Civil War. Below are various materials from his book on Red Eagle.

As the Encyclopedia of Alabama entry on Weatherford notes, "Weatherford is nearly universally called Red Eagle by writers. The sobriquet has no basis in fact. According to a family friend, Thomas Woodward, Weatherford was known by two Creek names, Hoponika Fulsahi (Truth Maker) and Billy Larney, which translates as Yellow Billy. The name "Red Eagle" did not appear in print until the 1855 publication of A. B. Meek's poem "The Red Eagle: A Poem of the South," a lengthy romanticized tale based loosely on Weatherford and his exploits."

George Cary Eggleston
Source: Wikipedia




751 Broadway.



CHAPTER I. Showing, by way of Introduction, how Red Eagle happened to be a Man of Consequence in History
CHAPTER II. Red Eagle's People
CHAPTER III. Red Eagle's Birth and Boyhood
CHAPTER IV. The Beginning of Trouble
CHAPTER V. Red Eagle as an Advocate of War—The Civil War in the Creek Nation
CHAPTER VI. The Battle of Burnt Corn
CHAPTER VII. Red Eagle's Attempt to abandon his Party
CHAPTER VIII. Claiborne and Red Eagle
CHAPTER IX. Red Eagle before Fort Mims
CHAPTER X. The Massacre at Fort Mims
CHAPTER XI. Romantic Incidents of the Fort Mims Affair
CHAPTER XII. The Dog Charge at Fort Sinquefield and Affairs on the Peninsula
CHAPTER XIII. Pushmatahaw and his Warriors
CHAPTER XIV. Jackson is helped into his Saddle
CHAPTER XV. The March into the Enemy's Country
CHAPTER XVI. The Battle of Tallushatchee
CHAPTER XVII. The Battle of Talladega
CHAPTER XVIII. General Cocke's Conduct and its Consequences
CHAPTER XIX. The Canoe Fight
CHAPTER XX. The Advance of the Georgians—The Battle of Autosse
CHAPTER XXI. How Claiborne executed his Orders—The Battle of the Holy Ground—Red Eagle's Famous Leap
CHAPTER XXII. How Jackson lost his Army
CHAPTER XXIII. A New Plan of the Mutineers
CHAPTER XXIV. Jackson's Second Battle with his own Men
CHAPTER XXV. Jackson dismisses his Volunteers without a Benediction
CHAPTER XXVI. How Jackson lost the rest of his Army
CHAPTER XXVII. Battles of Emuckfau and Enotachopco—How the Creeks "whipped Captain Jackson"
CHAPTER XXVIII. How Red Eagle "whipped Captain Floyd"—The Battle of Calebee Creek
CHAPTER XXIX. Red Eagle's Strategy
CHAPTER XXX. Jackson with an Army at last
CHAPTER XXXI. The Great Battle of the War
CHAPTER XXXII. Red Eagle's Surrender
CHAPTER XXXIII. Red Eagle after the War

List Of Illustrations


A work of this kind necessarily makes no pretension to originality in its materials; but while all that is here related is to be found in books, there is no one book devoted exclusively to the history of the Creek war or to the life of William Weatherford, the Red Eagle. The materials here used have been gathered from many sources—some of them from books which only incidentally mention the matters here treated, touching them as a part of larger subjects, and many of them from books which have been long out of print, and are therefore inaccessible to readers generally.
The author has made frequent acknowledgments, in his text, of his obligations to the writers from whose works he has drawn information upon various subjects. By way of further acknowledgment, and for the information of readers who may be tempted to enlarge their reading in the interesting history of the South-west, he appends the following list of the principal books that have been consulted in the preparation of this volume:
Parton's "Life of Andrew Jackson."
Eaton's "Life of Andrew Jackson."
Pickett's "History of Alabama."
Drake's "Book of the Indians."
McAfee's "History of the Late War in the Western Country."
Claiborne's "Notes on the War in the South."
Meek's "Romantic Passages in South-western History."
"Indian Affairs, American State Papers."
Kendall's "Life of Jackson."
Waldo's "Life of Jackson."
Russell's "History of the Late War."
Brackenridge's "History of the Late War."

Monday, May 11, 2015

History Panels in Jefferson Tower at UAB

Despite all the construction at UAB in recent decades, Jefferson Tower remains one of the most distinctive buildings on campus. The sixteen-story structure opened in December 1939 as the county's Jefferson Hospital and a few years later became part of the UA School of Medicine. It served as University Hospital until the North Pavilion opened; all inpatient activities were transferred there by September 2010. Various offices and clinics now occupy the building.

In the lobby of the main entrance are six panels that offer historical photos around various themes. The panels are labelled Change, Education, Tradition, Community, Care, Service. I managed to get semi-decent photographs of three of them, as seen below.

I'm not sure how long these panels have been up, but I've been at UAB since 1983 and have walked by them for many years. Originally a mix of historic and contemporary photos, this UAB Archives exhibit has become all historical by now. The University's archives date to 1990, but these panels have an even older aura. 

As I've noted in previous blog posts, such as the one on the Hillman Hospital Annex Cornerstone, most of us walk by history every day and never notice. 

Jefferson-Hillman Hospital around 1945, roughly the time the University of Alabama School of Medicine moved from Tuscaloosa and became a four-year program. Dig those cool cars! And I wish Jefferson Tower still had that striking entrance.
Source: University of Alabama Libraries Digital Collections

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Birmingham Photos of the Day (32): Railway, Power & Light Company in 1908

These photos continue the series from the 1908 book Views of Birmingham. As befits the topic's importance to the city, nine photographs related to the Birmingham Railway, Power and Light Company were included in the book. Railroads, electrical power and lighting were services badly needed in the booming Magic City and thus were used in this promotional book alongside the magnificent homes, businesses, churches, etc.  

The company was incorporated in February 1898 to consolidate various railway, light and gas companies then serving the city. That merging was completed in 1901, and Robert Jemison, Jr., became president. As a real estate developer Jemison [1878-1974] was responsible for numerous projects in Birmingham and Mountain Brook. 

More details about this company and its successor, the Birmingham Electric Company, can be found at the BhamWiki site here and here