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Historic Birmingham mine now part of Red Mountain Park attractions

The excavated Ishkooda Mine No. 13 is now an historic exhibit at Red Mountain Park in Birmingham. The photo on the left is before the excavation and the photo on the right is how it appears now. (Jeff E. Newman / Underground Birmingham)

By Alabama NewsCenter Staff

The historic iron-ore mine Ishkooda No. 13 has been excavated and is part of Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park experience.

The mine dates back to 1873 and is now a great glimpse into the mining history that helped build the Magic City.

Jeff Newman, co-founder of Underground Birmingham and a local mining expert, said the reopening of No. 13 is an opportunity for Birmingham citizens and surrounding communities to understand the city’s industrial past.

Newman’s personal history with No. 13 dates back to 1969 when he discovered the mine for himself at age 16.

“It was wide open, and you could walk right in,” Newman said. At the time, the railroad gate and tracks were intact, so he drove his car directly into the mine’s entrance. “All I could think was, ‘Wow. This is really cool.’”

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Today, No. 13 has been fully excavated and the concrete removed from its covered entrance. While steel bars have been installed to ensure public safety, visitors can view the mine’s exterior and learn about its extensive history, from the property’s original purchase by Baylis Grace – one of Jefferson County’s earliest industrialists – to the Eureka Company’s early drift mining to TCI’s (and later U.S. Steel’s) acquisition and slope mining.

“It’s a great opportunity. The No. 13 site is the earliest and perhaps best example of the evolution of mining on the property,” said Red Mountain Park Executive Director T.C. McLemore. “People can walk up and feel this 60-degree air soaring from the entrance. You can step back and really imagine what mining life was like. Red Mountain Park continues to uncover Birmingham’s once-lost history.”

Through Underground Birmingham and his affiliation with Red Mountain Park, Newman lives out his passion for exploring the area’s industrial history. As a boy, he found a 1910 geological survey book of Birmingham district mines. Over a 10-year span, he mapped all 68 mines – from the north end of Trussville to Bessemer. His extensive knowledge and experience eventually led to him joining the Friends of Red Mountain Park and conducting tours and history talks on the mountain.

“I’m inspired by the thought of people traveling down there, digging and making a living,” Newman said. “Mining is what built Birmingham. Other cities are built on rivers because of agriculture and needing a way to bring product to the market. We don’t necessarily have major rivers. So, the only thing that drew people to Birmingham was the convergence of iron ore, limestone and coal all within 5 miles of each other. That only occurs two places on the planet, the U.K. and here.”

The reopening of No. 13 coincides with Red Mountain Park’s official launch of its 2021 Evergreen Campaign. The fundraising effort will help ensure the park continues to be a community resource and inclusive space where nature, history and fresh air are free and accessible for all.

The campaign will run throughout October, and all donations $75 and over will qualify donors to be Red Mountain Park members.

Those wishing to make a charitable donation to the campaign can do so individually or through a Member Champion. Interested supporters can  read personal stories from the 21 Red Mountain Park Member Champions selected for this year here. Each has a testimony that speaks to how they explore and connect with Red Mountain Park.

To make a donation to the campaign, visit rmpevergreen.swell.gives or click on a Member Champion’s profile to donate through their portal.

For more information, visit rmpevergreen.swell.gives.