Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ensley, Alabama



A large city neighborhood in Jefferson CountyAlabama, Ensley was once a separate and thriving industrial city. It was formally incorporated on February 12, 1899, but later annexed into Birmingham on January 1, 1910 under the "Greater Birmingham" legislation.




Founded in 1886 by Memphis entrepreneur, Enoch Ensley, as a new industrial city on the outskirts of a rapidly developing Birmingham (then just 15 years old) and directly adjacent to the Pratt coal seam. Zealously promoting and investing his own wealth in the project, Ensley soon attracted the interest of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI), which bought a controlling interest in the Ensley Land Company. In the first year of development, sanitary engineer Edwin Waring, Jr. of Rhode Island was contracted to lay out the new city's streets and infrastructure, including an early application of separate storm and sanitary sewers. Meanwhile, Ensley and TCI erected four 200-ton blast furnaces which were in operation by April, 1889, the largest such grouping in the world. Despite the grand beginning, a series of setbacks began with the death of Colonel Ensley in 1891. The economic panic of 1893 resulted in the dissolution of the land company. The entire property was sold at sheriff's auction for less than $16,000.








In 1898 the Ensley Land Company was reorganized and active industrial development resumed, including the construction of hundreds of small workers' cottages. It was here that TCI pioneered the open-hearth process of making steel in the Birmingham District. By 1906 two more blast furnaces were completed and a record 400,000 tons of steel were produced in a single year. Schools, churches, public buildings and stores were rapidly constructed to keep pace with the scores of new mills and plants opening up.



The success of the development established a corridor of industrial development reaching out to the southwest of Birmingham. During its heyday between the late 1890s and the Great Depression, Ensley was known for its lively fraternal halls and dance clubs, including Tuxedo Junction at the crossing of the Wylam and Pratt City streetcar lines. In 1939 the hit song "Tuxedo Junction" made the spot nationally famous. It was written by local musician Erskine Hawkins and arranged by Glenn Miller.
When U. S. Steel purchased TCI in 1907 they began planning a new, larger plant northeast in the center of a large planned community to be named Corey (now named Fairfield). Although the new plant was close enough that workers living in Ensley wouldn't have to relocate, the move did stifle any ongoing development. 

With the loss of the major industrial activities in the 1970s, Ensley has lost much of its population and economic base and white residents fled to the suburbs after desegregation.


(The following is an excerpt from AL.com)

Mr. McCall is Ensley's neighborhood president, and his neighborhood stretches from about the old U.S. Steel plant to Avenue W, and from Village Creek to about 35th Street. It's a big area, but it's not as big as the area of Birmingham where the streets are named "Ensley." In Five Points West, Ensley Highlands and other areas south of Interstate 20/59 that aren't part of the Ensley neighborhood or community, as defined by the city, the street names still end with "Ensley."

Even in Green Acres, which is far closer to Midfield and southwest Birmingham than to the old U.S. Steel plant, the street names say Ensley. The City of Birmingham annexed Green Acres in 1949, nearly four decades after Birmingham merged with the old City of Ensley.
McCall has seen how people refer to the entire west side as Ensley, and has seen how, when people see every bad thing that happens west of Legion Field lumped in with one name, it's hurt the chances for growth in his neighborhood.
"It doesn't make Ensley look good," McCall said. "I guess people don't know when they talk about Ensley, what Ensley really is."
Ensley still has its crime, he said, but it's not as bad as its reputation suggests.
"Ensley is a safe community," he said. "You don't see kids standing on the corners like other areas, you don't see that."
When Mr. Hawkins talks about bringing Ensley back, he sees the hesitation from people who live in other parts of Birmingham. He knows the thoughts of crimes that might have happened in Central Park or Five Points West are going through their minds.
"I tell them Ensley is really safe and they always challenge me on that," he said.
Both Hawkins and McCall realize that the key to bringing Ensley back is to convince people of its potential.
"I believe it can come back," McCall said. "You've got to get the people with the money that there is a need to come back to this area.
"There are opportunities out here that could make it come back to what it used to be." (end)

Historical Ensley

1st Baptist - organized 1900

Ensley Ambulance - circa 1900


Ensley Bank - cica 1909


2801 Lomb Ave -circa 1950's

Ensley-Franklin Theater - circa 1900-1910

Ensley High School Basketball Team - circa 1910

Ensley Yearly Kindergarten Picnic - circa early 1900's

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. 




Investment Opportunities for Ensley

The area of Ensley, Alabama has mainly smaller single family homes and apartments and has the potential to grow which comes from the continued progress of its local enterprises. The population has increased by 20% since 2010 and is projected to grow by an additional 10% by 2018. The median household income of the area is $50,051 with 20% of those occupants holding a bachelor’s degrees or higher. Health care and social services make up 15.81% of the civilian workforce in this area and retail trade making up 10.81% of the workforce. 


According to City-Data's website, as of 2015, there were 7,379 people living within Ensley's zip code of 35218.  60% of them were renters.  That site also touted Ensley as being significantly above the state average when it comes to renters "length of stay since moving in."  This is a very good thing for potential investors.  Couple that with the much lower than state average home prices and a solid average age group of 38.5 and Ensley would appear to be a very good place for landlords.

The town of Ensley is only 7 miles west of Birmingham, so if you are trying to plan your commute to work, expect an average travel time between 15-25 minutes, depending on traffic patterns. 


Ensley has a long historic history.  With a long history comes periods of great prosperity and equally long periods of economic struggle.  I, for one, see Ensley making a comeback.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Some of the best locally owned Birmingham Restaurants!

Birmingham Alabama has earned quite a reputation in the past decade not only for its amazing food but the incredible choices available to diners.  Just about any style of food that you could possibly want is generously represented here.  Here are my top 10.

Of course, I can't possibly write about Birmingham food without mentioning Pepper Place!  Located in historic Avondale, this area is full of great restaurants, coffee shops, antique shops and one of the best farmer's markets in the state!  






BETTOLA'S

One of the restaurants in Pepper place is Bettola's.  James Lewis, who was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 11 best new chefs in America in 2011, began serving his oven-fired pizzas and house-made pastas at this Italian trattoria in the Pepper Place complex a decade ago. Lewis is always coming up with new and creative takes on traditional Italian dishes, but our favorite remains the classic Margherita pizza, with San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. On a nice fall or spring night, we highly recommend that you dine out under the stars on their roomy patio.

Address: 2901 Second Ave. South, Suite 150, Birmingham
Phone: 205-731-6499




BOGUE'S

The original Bogue's in Highland Park has been replaced with a Walgreen's.  However, Bogue's bought and renovated an historic fire station next door and now that Bogue's is larger,, even more folks can enjoy the incredible food at this historic Birmingham restaurant!  Pat and Mildred Bogue opened their namesake diner in downtown Birmingham in 1938 and eight years later moved to the Highland Park area, where it became a neighborhood breakfast institution for decades. While the location may have changed, Bogue’s remains an old reliable for omelets, pancakes and its famous sweet rolls, as well as daily lunch specials that include turkey and dressing, country-fried steak and baked spaghetti.
Address: 3028 Clairmont Ave. South, Birmingham
Phone: 205-254-9780



Monday, May 1, 2017

Where do you take out of town visitors?

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer and people are beginning to crawl out of their houses and head out looking for fun things to do, places to see and places to take out of town visitors.  So here are a few of my favorites.

Hungry?  You really should try The Garage.  Located at 2304 10th Terrace South
Birmingham, AL 35204, this place has tons of atmosphere and good food to boot.

Warning: Bring cash with you because The Garage accepts nothing else.  Also, if you're looking for a place that ON the beaten path....this isn't the place for you.  It's almost a badge of pride to know exactly how to get to this bar without getting lost and spending hours winding through the back streets of Southside.  But the hunt is well worth it. Their patio is eclectically cluttered with architectural artifacts and antiques while nearly completely covered in Wisteria.  The attitude is "Welcome, grab a seat!"  Not only is the ambiance supreme but the food is excellent too.  Toss in live music and you've got a great place to wile away a few hours.  But before you go, make sure to browse the antiques.  It's my favorite place to take out of towners because there's really nothing quite like it anywhere.






Reed Book Store at 2021 3rd Ave. North, Birmingham, AL 35203 is such a gem.  If you love books and/or antiques 1/100th as much as I do.....this store will blow your mind!  It's part bookstore part antique store but all mind blowing!  I can't go there unless I know I have at least 2 hours to spare.  As soon as you enter, you are nearly overwhelmed by all the goodies to look at and drool over.  Yes, it really is that great.

Jim Reed, the proprietor, has spent decades amassing a very impressive collection of rare and antique books.  He is also a popular inspirational columnist and gothic humorist who has authored several books of his own.  He has catalogued over 50,000 books, magazines and posters but estimates he has an additional 250,000 that he has not catalogued and are just waiting for someone to dig through them and find their dream book (or poster or magazine).



Birmingham has its very own Statue of Liberty.

The Birmingham Statue of Liberty is visible to motorists driving on the southern outskirts of Birmingham on the I-459 bypass.  Located in a commercial development called "Liberty Park" it sits right next door to the Boy Scouts of America local headquarters.

For over 30 years Ms. Liberty graced the top of the Liberty National Insurance Company building in downtown Birmingham.  Over two decades ago, she was lifted from her perch by crane, carefully restored and has since enjoyed her permanent home in the Liberty Park area of Birmingham.

According to the inscription on the plaque:
"A bronze replica, one-fifth the size of the Statue of Liberty, was commissioned by Frank Park Samford as the symbol for the company he founded, Liberty National Life Insurance Company. Created by sculptors Archer and Lee Lawrie, the statue was cast in Sommerville Haut Marine, France, in 1956 and was placed atop Liberty National's home office building in downtown Birmingham and then moved to its present location and dedicated on July 4, 1989."






Birmingham also has its super hero...well, actually it's a Goddess...but anyway.  Miss Electra has lightning bolts for hair and wears absolutely no clothes.  Her sculptor named her "Divinity of Light" in 1926 but Miss Electra was adopted by the locals and the name stuck.  She stands on tiptoe 20 stories above ground on the roof of the Alabama Power Building in downtown Birmingham.  Although she is 23 feet tall, she is the smallest of Birmingham's mythical giants trailing Statue of Liberty (36 feet tall) and The Vulcan (56 feet tall).




Joe Minter's Yard is not really a business but it is an experience that everyone should have.  Mr. Minter's Yard is located at 912 Nassau Street near Shadow Lawn Memorial Park in the Woodland Park neighborhood.

Joe Minter is a retired construction worker and self proclaimed "outside artist".  He has transformed his yard and the vacant lot next door into an outside African American museum.  While his is not a formal museum, he is always happy to take folks on a tour.