A little history

A remnant of Avondale's past

This shot from 32nd Street South, looking east between 3rd and 4th Avenues towards the unremarkable LabCorp building, reveals little of the interesting history of this  block, now completely empty except for LabCorp. My attention was drawn to it last week at Design Review Committee, as the Barber Companies which owns the lot requested a permit for surface parking work.

Bowling alone

Above is the LabCorp building in 1960, when it was the fabulous Bowl-Lo-Mac, complete with illuminated bowling pin sign on the roof. A putt-putt golf course occupied a portion of the remaining block, as did Ed Salem’s Drive In #2, a well-known local burger joint. This restaurant later became Eunice Crabtree’s Cut Rate Delicatessen & Bait Shop, a gay bar that closed in the early ’90s. The building, uncared for and forlorn, sat vacant for years until Barber razed it a few years ago, completing the erasure of the formerly vibrant elements in this area.

Smoking encouraged at Ed Salem's

The busy recreational activity of this block in the 1960’s helps explain the Regions Bank directly across 32nd Street to the west, whose deliberate, almost “Miami-Modern”-Jetson’s profile is so at odds with the more prosaic warehouses in this neighborhood. Apparently, the building was originally Godwin’s, a favorite local store for purchasing and repairing televisions–although perhaps someone else could confirm or correct this assumption [Assumption corrected: Godwin’s was one block further south!]:

A period piece that's lost its context

It seems that the Bowl-Lo-Mac quickly lost business to larger, more glamorous lanes out in Eastwood, Greensprings and beyond, and of course TV purchases and hamburgers all moved out to more suburban pastures too. If nothing else, I’m grateful to Barber for giving me a reason to learn about this area’s past. Talk about looking on the bright side of a surface parking permit; I tried, I really tried…

[thanks to Birmingham Rewound for the Bowl-Lo-Mac pic, and to ussiwojima for the matchbook]

6 responses to “A little history

  1. I have happy, happy, happy memories of Bowl-Lo-Mac & the Putt-Putt course. Ed Salem’s place was before my time, but I know about it from family lore & BhamWiki: http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Ed_Salem's_Drive-In

  2. Jeremy–I always thought that Godwin Radio and Tv was on I guess 2nd and about 24th street….could be wrong.

  3. That Regions is a little gem. I really am astonished it’s still standing, considering Birmingham’s knee-jerk hatred of Modernism and anything smacking of the Sixties. Those blocks near Pepper Place have a definite “sense-of-place”, though. Our Warehouse District is kind of funky, even now.

  4. I too spent many happy hours (and dates) at the bowling alley and especially at the Putt-Putt course, and bought record albums at Godwin Radio (at cheaper prices than you could get them out at Eastwood Mall). One small correction: I’m pretty confident that the Putt-Putt course was not actually on the same block as the bowling alley, but rather across the street, on the north side of 3rd Avenue.

  5. Pingback: A little history (2) | Bhamarchitect's Blog

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