Grasselli Heights is a neighborhood in the Grasselli community of Birmingham. It was developed originally as a residential neighborhood for managers at the Grasselli Chemical Company plant nearby.
The neighborhood is bounded to the north by tracks owned by the Seaboard System Railroad, which separates it from the Western Steel Fabricators plant in unincorporated Jefferson County and from Birmingham's Riley-Travellick neighborhood. On the east and northeast the neighborhood is separated from Tarpley City by 37th Street Southwest, Rutledge Avenue and Wilson Road Southwest. Lawson State Community College and Wenonah High School are located just north of Grasselli Heights on Wilson Road.
Grasselli Heights borders East Brownsville to the south, bounded by Felix Avenue near Venice Road and then following the alleyways behind Willard Avenue and Carver Avenue. East Brownsville Park abuts Grasselli Heights at Felix Avenue. On the west the neighborhood is separated from Hillman Park by 45th Street Southwest.
Many confuse the Grasselli Heights neighborhood with the Little Italy neighborhood of Birmingham. They are not the same neighborhoods. Little Italy is a 21 block area in Ensley that centered on Avenue F and encompassed the entire blocks of 12th Street to 17th Street while Grasselli Heights is further away centered along 37th and 39th Streets.
The namesake of this neighborhood, The Grasselli Chemical Company was an Ohio-based manufacturer of chemicals whose Southern territory was once headquartered in Birmingham.
The company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1839 by Eugene Ramiro Grasselli as a manufacturer of sulfuric acid. It moved its headquarters to Cleveland in 1867 in order to better supply that city's oil refining industry.
Grasselli acquired a 100-acre parcel near Hillman, four miles from Bessemer in 1899 for a new chemical works. It spent an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 building and equipping the plant for the production of nitric acid and other heavy chemicals. The company also opened a downtown office in the Brown-Marx Building.
Brown-Marx Bldg circa 1901
The Grasselli Company promoted a type of "social welfare" common among many of the Birmingham District's large employers in the early 20th century. Through various programs companies would seek to improve the health and loyalty of its workforce. In addition to sponsoring an Industrial League baseball team, the Grasselli company constructed houses for workers near the plant, a practice thought to attract a more stable workforce. The residences were heated with steam generated at the plant. The area has since been annexed into Birmingham and is part of the neighborhood of Grasselli Heights in the Grasselli community.
The Grasselli Chemical Company was acquired by E. I. Du Pont de Nemours Co. in 1928. Du Pont closed down its Birmingham operations in the 1940s.
The Grasselli Heights and the Little Italy neighborhoods were arguably the first self integrated neighborhoods in the Birmingham area. Most of the residents were either Italian or black but there were those of northern European descent, Greeks and Lebanese residents as well.
Several of the residents realized that grocery shopping was something of a chore for their area. In response to this, they opened "mom and pop" grocery stores. Often the family would live either above the store or behind the store. They maintained grueling hours. They were open 6 days a week from as early as 6 am to 10 pm at night to accommodate the workers schedules. They allowed neighborhood residents to charge their groceries.
Usually the wives and children would run the stores with the husband working in the stores after their usual shifts at the factory and on their rare days off.
Most of the homes built in this area were what we could now consider "starter homes". With very few exceptions, they were small nondescript homes. Most of the original homes in the area have long since vanished with single story ranch homes replacing them.
The majority of the homes now occupying this area were built between 1940 and 1970. Rent in this area is incredibly inexpensive in comparison to most of the other areas in Jefferson County. The location is fairly central so commuting for work is not difficult.
Approximately 24% of the residents in this area are renters with a median income of just over $22,000 per year with a median rent of $564.
As this neighborhood abuts Lawson State College, this would conceivably be a great place to own rental property.
Below are a couple of houses in this area that either are for sale or have recently been for sale.
Everyone needs a roof over their heads. Investing in the more aesthetic and trendily located neighborhoods will, of course, bring in more money for the landlord. However, providing affordable rentals will not only bring in consistent monthly cash but will provide a much needed service. It's been shown over and over again that renters who pay a reasonable amount of monthly rent and have a responsive landlord tend to stay put.