JCHA NEWSLETTER – OCTOBER 2010

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JCHA Seal

JEFFERSON COUNTY HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
NEWSLETTER


Second Printing Available for Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County

As you know this wonderful book, which we are so very proud of, sold out. But thanks to the hard work of our author and association president, Jim Bennett, we have 1000 copies now available. Our cost is next to nothing and this has been the sole effort by Jim so a great big thanks to him.

These books are ready for Christmas and what grand gifts they will make! Buying several will make Christmas shopping easy and yes we can ship them out of town.

Even though the books will be in some stores, if you buy direct from us we keep all of the money and you get a 10% discount. We will sell these for $50 but the stores will charge $55 including tax. (One of our most difficult chores is paying state, county and city taxes. Being a non-profit corporation does not relieve the Association from paying all the many taxes.)

We will have books available at our upcoming meeting so bring your checkbooks.

Proceeds from the sales of Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County will continue to aid the Birmingham History Center and other worthy projects of the Jefferson County Historical Association.

Thanks always to my Book Committee members Jim Bennett, Herb Griffin and Craig Allen.

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Metal Thieves Attack Red Mountain Historic Site

Metal scavengers have long ravaged abandoned industrial sites in the Birmingham district—including the Tannehill Furnaces as early as World War I—causing many rare items worthy of museum exhibits to be destroyed.

It happened again near the historic Sloss Mines on Red Mountain earlier this month when scrappers were caught in the act of cutting up a metal bridge and a water tower made from an old boiler. Bessemer police arrested one and are looking for another.

Not only did the offense constitute trespassing on private land, it was a violation of the Alabama Antiquities Act which protects archaeological artifacts from casual excavation or destruction. Prosecution carries a $1,000 fine for each offense.

According to Bessemer Police, the men were found with a section of a U.S. Steel-owned, riveted steel bridge loaded on the trailer of a four-wheel drive truck. Several sections of the bridge had been cut out, and other structures related to iron ore mines in the area, including a water tower and a wheel house, have been damaged.

Wendy Jackson, executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust, said the theft was not just an assault on an important piece of industrial history, the bridge and the rail right-of-way leading to it were being considered for inclusion in a greenway plan.

The incident was reminiscent of the burning of a massive railroad trestle in Brookside that spanned a deep gorge and was to have been included in the Five Mile Creek greenway. Trails are not expensive, but the bridge links can be tremendously expensive, Jackson said.

"These structures they are tearing up tell the story of Birmingham and Jefferson County and are an important part of our industrial heritage," she said.

Hurst said the arrested man told police he and the other man had been out to the Red Mountain site on four occasions and were selling the metal they harvested for scrap. For their efforts, they got $200 on a load, according to reports.

The resulting damage will cost many thousands of dollars to fix, if it can be repaired at all.

The bridge was on the TCI rail line that connected the Muscoda mines in Bessemer to the highline railroad that once carried iron ore to its steel mills, according to U.S. Steel. It crossed over an L&N railroad line that served a Sloss Company mine. It was about 80 feet long and was 24 feet above the L&N track.

Jefferson County Historical Association President Jim Bennett said the law should be strengthened when it comes to industrial artifacts which formed the basis of the Birmingham iron and steel industry.

"It is particularly reprehensible when someone would steal our history and deny it to future generations," he said. "This is especially the case at a time when renewed efforts are being made to save artifacts and structures from our industrial beginnings like the ore mines on Red Mountain."

—Thanks to the Birmingham News for portions of this article.


L & N Bridge

Several sections of this old bridge near the historic Sloss Mines on Red Mountain were cut out and other structures related to iron-ore mines in the area, including a water tower and a wheel house, were damaged (The Birmingham News).

 
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“Robert Jemison, Jr. / The Old Mill” Historical Marker to be Erected

On Mountain Brook Parkway at The Old Mill you will soon see the Jefferson County Historical Association’s latest marker.

This is our 21st marker and to our knowledge no other organization in Jefferson County has erected this many. The current cost of one marker is around $2,200 so the total current value of all our markers is $44,000. The majority of these funds were raised by the chairman with occasional partial funding from the Historical Association treasury. This particular marker was 50% funded by from the City of Mountain Brook and 50% from the Friends of Jemison Park. I wish to thank my fellow committee members Mayor Terry Oden and Dr. Ed Stevenson for their help and support.

Robert Jemison, Jr. known as “Mr. Birmingham” and “The Father of Mountain Brook” was, after the Elyton Land Company which built Birmingham, the greatest real estate developer in Jefferson County’s history. This marker was long overdue.

Even though twenty-one (21) markers is unequaled, the potential for markers is tremendous. If anyone would like to fund a marker the cost can be donated to the Jefferson County Historical Association a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization and this will help you at tax time. Also if someone has suggestions for marker placement please call me at 871-5365. You may wish to dedicate a marker in memory of a loved one.

The wording on the new marker is as follows:

Old Mill/Jemison Historical Marker
WORDING FOR SIDE 1
The Old Mill (1927)

On this site John Perryman operated a grist mill, from 1867 until 1887, which ground corn grown by local farmers.

The present structure, while not a working mill, was built in 1927 by Robert Jemison, Jr. as an attraction of his new development, Mountain Brook Estates. The picturesque building was designed by William H. Kessler. The contractor was Lewis Ford employing Tom Cox and George Eastis.

The Old Mill, under the management of Miss Frances Bomer, served breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner. Meals ranged from 50¢ to $1.75. Local residents found it to be a delightful rest stop while on horseback rides.

Perryman’s old original millstone was unearthed and used in the current building’s stone fireplace.

After the tearoom operation closed The Old Mill has been used as a private dwelling and for over 50 years was the home of William B. O’Neal. The Mill image is the official logo for the City of Mountain Brook.

Erected in 2010 by the Jefferson County Historical Association, City of Mountain Brook and Friends of Jemison Park.

Old Mill/Jemison Historical Marker
WORDING FOR SIDE 2
Robert Jemison, Jr. (1878 – 1974)
The Father of Mountain Brook

A man of great vision, dreams and enthusiasm, Robert Jemison, Jr. was by far the greatest real estate developer of Birmingham’s 20th century. The Post-Herald newspaper dubbed him “Mr. Birmingham.”

Jemison said about Mountain Brook Estates “…landscape architects and engineers have adroitly blended the convenience of city life into this picturesque environment without disturbing nature’s craftsmanship.”

He built Mountain Brook Club, Mountain Brook Village, The Old Mill, Mountain Brook Grammar School, Mountain Brook Riding Academy and also Fairfield, Bush Hills, Ensley Highlands, Forest Park and Glen Iris.

He built the original Tutwiler Hotel, Ridgely Apartments, Empire Building, Jemison-Seibels Building, Stallings Building, Newberry Building, Porter Clothing Co. Building, Elmwood Cemetery and Redmont Gardens Apartments.

He handled the site acquisition for Country Club of Birmingham, City (Boutwell) Auditorium, Jefferson County Courthouse and Ramsay High School.

Erected in 2010 by the Jefferson County Historical Association, City of Mountain Brook and Friends of Jemison Park

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