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.
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.
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.