Fighting fires

Sad news from the historic neighborhood of Norwood, directly north of downtown Birmingham: a 3-alarm fire created a large blaze and smoke visible across Jones Valley this morning. The fire occurred at a complex of historic structures that housed rental apartments at the corner of 30th Street and 13th Avenue North. Here’s a brief summary from the News. According to a resident I spoke with, every winter it seems like more historic structures in Norwood are lost to fires, in large part due to homeless people seeking shelter in the neighborhood’s many abandoned houses. The cause of this morning’s fire is not known.

Before people moved over the mountain

Norwood (whose beautiful, curving main boulevard is seen above) was at one time one of the city’s most elegant neighborhoods. Battered by competition from fancier places south of town (such as Forest Park, Highland Park, Redmont, and eventually Mountain Brook); thoughtless freeway construction that ripped right through the place; and racial integration in the late 1960s and 70s, the neighborhood has recently been undergoing a quiet but confident resurgence. There are many challenges, however.

Some of these challenges can be traced back decades, as the neighborhood became integrated for the first time, against a backdrop of rising crime, social unrest, and white flight from cities across the country. A fascinating snapshot of this period–with Norwood as our local representative of “The Urban Crisis”– can be seen in this multi-article series from the Birmingham News’ December 7, 1969 issue. It is well worth a read for anybody interested in urban development, and its earlier challenges whose effects remain with us today.

Urban Transition

We hope that everyone is safe and out of harm’s way this morning in Norwood, and good luck to the community in their tireless efforts to rebuild themselves.

[thanks to vizual2 for the Norwood Blvd. pic, and to the Birmingham Public Library for the newspaper clipping]

8 responses to “Fighting fires

  1. it seems like the airport is part of the problem with norwood. do you think the neighborhood will come back with all those planes flying overhead?

    • Maybe someone who lives there could comment on the flight patterns–these seem to have been recently altered to zoom directly over Norwood by the time the 1969 article was written. Are they constant? Just daytime?

  2. The airplanes are not as much of a problem as I thought they would be. There are certain times of the day when they come in every ten minutes (Sunday evening, and weekdays around 5:00 pm), but there are also long stretches with no traffic. I have talked to other newer residents, and they have, like me, gotten used to them to the point that you think they haven’t been flying over, until you are trying to talk to someone on your front porch. What I don’t understand is why some of the big commercial planes are much quieter than others. Are the newer ones inherently quieter? Are there any regulations on the amount of noise commercial aircraft can make?

  3. This saddens me so much. I had been at a lovely party on Norwood Boulevard on Sunday night and am making every effort I can to write a pictorial history of the Norwood neighborhood just as I did with my previous book, Birmingham’s Highland Park. I want so desperately for Norwood to be on the par with its older sister Highland Park.

    • Richard–thanks for reading the blog, and thanks for trying to document the neighborhood history of this city. The 1969 series I linked to in the post is a great read for anyone interested in Birmingham history, and the life of urban neighborhoods generally.

  4. Thanks for highlighting that feature from 1969. Some excellent reporting there, complete with a lot of things that are painful to read. I’ve expanded the Bhamwiki article on Norwood and added articles on the Church House and Operation Pride.

    http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Norwood
    http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Norwood_Community_Ministry
    http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Operation_Pride

  5. When I was at the Norwood Market on Norwood Boulevard one Saturday about a month ago, I was there from 6:45 until about 1:30 and 9 planes went overhead. I was not bothered by them at all. Just interested. I also love the sound of trains–a very all-American sound.

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