By Chaise Sanders
West End holds remnants of Birmingham’s history from before Birmingham was even a city. This neighborhood is where the magic all started and where it continues to shine! Let’s take a walk through the historic West End community.
Where is West End?
West End lies slightly southwest of downtown Birmingham next to Fairfield. The community consists of five of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods: neighborhoods:
- Arlington-West End
- Germania Park
- Oakwood Place
- Rising-West Princeton
- West End Manor
West End History Lesson
To say that West End has historical significance is an understatement. This community is home to Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens, Elmwood Cemetery, and the legendary Rickwood Field.
The West End neighborhood is home to Birmingham’s first neighborhood previously known as Elyton, which was a prominent trading center and housed the county seat of Jefferson County until 1873. Elyton now lies within the Arlington-West End neighborhood.
Call me crazy but I’m actually a big fan of cemeteries. Some families go to parks. Mine strolls through cemeteries. Despite being surrounded by death, these places are alive with beauty, history, and art. Elmwood doesn’t fall short of any of these aspects.
As of 2002, Elmwood Cemetery was ranked as the 12th largest cemetery in the nation. Established in the 1880s, this 412-acre cemetery quickly became one of the most prominent burial places in the city.
Like most things in Birmingham in the early 1900s, Elmwood only allowed white people to be buried until it was integrated in 1970.
The vast size and beautiful architecture already set Elmwood apart from other local cemeteries. It’s also home to notable names such as:
- Bear Bryant, University of Alabama football coach
- Mary Anderson, inventor of the windshield wiper
- Eddie Kendricks, singer and co-founder of The Temptations
- Abraham Woods Jr., minister, professor, and civil rights activist (he also has a street named after him)
- Piper Davis, player for the Birmingham Black Barons and Harlem Globetrotter
Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens
Built by Judge William Mudd, a founder of Birmingham, the Arlington mansion is located in the Arlington-West End neighborhood. This former plantation home sits on six acres of carefully landscaped gardens.
Originally known as “The Grove”, the house was a grand eight-room mansion in the Greek Revival Style. It later was purchased by Robert Munger in 1902 and renamed “Arlington” as a reference to Robert E. Lee’s estate.
Fun fact for Auburn fans: the Arlington estate was used by Union troops while planning the burning of the University of Alabama.
The City of Birmingham purchased Arlington in 1953 and it now serves as a decorative arts museum. Here you’ll find 19th-century furniture, textiles, and paintings. It’s also a popular event space for reunions, celebrations, and weddings.
If you’d like to see the Arlington and all its grandeur, check out their website to plan your visit. I heard that they really go all out for Christmas!
A Glimpse Of Sports History
West End is home to the historic Rickwood Field. Although Legion Field is technically not in this community, the neighborhood it sits in borders West End. So I figured I’d go ahead and give it a shout out!
You may recognize Rickwood Field, America’s oldest ballpark, from a few movies. It was featured in the movies “Cobb”, “42” and an HBO documentary. Some of the greats like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Reggie Jackson have played here. If you’re a baseball fan like me, that’s a pretty big deal!
Every year, the Birmingham Barons welcome fans back to this historic landmark to watch the Annual Rickwood Classic. The first game held in 1910 was so popular it literally closed the city down. If you haven’t been to Rickwood, this game is the perfect opportunity to check it out.
Legion Field a.k.a. “The Old Gray Lady” lies right next door in the Graymont neighborhood but I wanted to go ahead and include it. Hate to break it to you but if you haven’t been to Legion Field, you’re missing out.
It hosted a soccer match during the 1996 Olympics, Legion soccer games, local college teams, and was once home to a long series of Iron Bowl games between Alabama and Auburn. It has been home to a number of pro football teams including the Birmingham Americans (1974) and Birmingham Vulcans (1975) of the World Football League (1974–1975), the Alabama Vulcans of the American Football Association (1979), the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League (1983–1985) and most recently the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football (2019).
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
On January 2, the 14th Annual TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl was played at Legion Field between the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and the Boston College Eagles.
Magic City Classic
You definitely don’t want to miss the Magic City Classic where Alabama State University and Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical, two of the largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), play an annual rivalry football the last Saturday in October. People come from around the nation for this one weekend!
The festivities include the Magic City Classic Parade, the tailgate party, and the Classic Kickoff hosted by the mayor. The real magic happens during halftime when the Mighty Marching Hornets and Marching Maroon and White put on performances that rival any Super Bowl halftime in my opinion.
Princeton Baptist Medical Center
Princeton Baptist Medical Center has been serving Birmingham from the West End community since 1922. Princeton offers a full range of services. As a matter of fact, they were ranked as the third best hospital in the state.
The hospital recently received national recognition. They earned an ‘A’ for their Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade which recognizes hospitals’ achievements in protecting patients from harm and providing safer health care.
Princeton meets the diverse needs of their patients including cardiology, orthopedics, rehabilitation, psychiatric care, weight-loss procedures, a sleep center, and my OG pediatrician!
The West End Community Garden was founded in 2008 by Community Church Without Walls and Urban Ministry.
WE Garden grows fresh fruit and veggies while providing residents with essential life skills for living, working, and thriving. You can purchase their produce at Baptist Princeton Hospital’s market (every Wednesday from 10 a.m. -1 p.m.), Pepper Place, or the WE online market!
Although the garden is currently dormant due to the winter season, the hard-working spirit of the community persists.
This is another installment in a series Bham Now is doing to feature Birmingham’s 23 communities, comprising 99 neighborhoods. For more visit www.bhamnow.com.