The Remagicing of Birmingham

dream

 

I’ve been reading Fannie Flagg’s I Still Dream About You, and it has made me look into so many aspects of Birmingham’s history. One is the refurbishing/reopening of  many lovely buildings downtown, most of which I’ve yet to see. Such as….

 

Florentine Building

Located at Second Avenue North and Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard, it first opened in 1926 and has always been an events center. It sat empty for about six and a half years until Corretti Catering bought it and remodeled it. It has a newly renovated ballroom and they hope to have a cafe open for lunch in April.

 

Redmont Hotel

This  hotel first opened in 1925, and some of it’s original features are the 10-foot chandelier, marble staircase, moldings and iron railings found in the lobby. Harvest Restaurant & Bar on the ground floor is a fine-dining restaurant that serves farm-to-table fare with an Italian twist. The hotel’s Cafe 2101 serves pastries and other treats made on-site, along with Revelator coffee.  Two ballrooms and two board rooms make up most of the meeting room space and there are 120 guest rooms. There is also a new rooftop lounge. The Redmont Hotel Birmingham is located downtown at 2101 Fifth Avenue North.

 

Pizitz Food Hall

The Pizitz Building was built in 1925, but it had been vacant since the early 1980s. It recently reopened with restaurants, retail and apartments. Pizitz Food Hall  is a unique dining experience with a wide variety of vendors, from traditional burgers to Asian to Ethiopian to Israeli cuisine.

Thomas Jefferson Tower

The twenty story Thomas Jefferson Tower, completed in 1929, had been  vacant since 1982. The 96 renovated apartments are ideal for living in the middle of the magic of Bham.  The newly opened  Roots and Revelry restaurant here is worth a visit.

 

Lyric Theatre

The Lyric Theatre, built in 1914 for vaudeville shows, underwent an $11 million restoration project and relit its  marquee in 2013. It features a restored 38-foot mural, “Allegory of the Muses,” that was painted by local artist Harry Hawkins.

 

The Carver Theatre

Now known as the Carver Performing Arts Center, it was originally opened in 1935 as one of the first movie houses for African-Americans to see first-run films. It closed in the 1980s, but reopened in 1993 and is now the location of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

 

The Empire Building

This Classical Revival style 16-story building was built in 1909 and was the tallest building in Alabama at the time. After being remodeled, it reopened as City National Bank. It was again sold in 2012. After a $27 million renovation, it is now experiencing new life as the Empire Hotel, which includes a restaurant and rooftop bar.

 

ledz2

photo – Hannah Scofield

Led z

photo – Hannah Scofield

The Alabama Theatre

Now this is one I have been in. And I love it. I’ve been in similar – perhaps sister- theatres in Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida. They are all lovely. The Alabama, built in 1927  as a classic movie palace with gorgeous  Art Deco style, underwent a major renovation and restoration in the late ’90s.
Birmingham has indeed once again earned the right to be called the Magic City.

Third Quarter Recap

 

3q1

October is almost over and I just realized I didn’t write a third quarter recap at the end of September. So, for what it’s worth, here are the highlights of my third quarter:

  • We kept our daughter’s dog, Poca, for over a month while she was in Columbia, South America. Things started out well, but after the second fight, in which Loretta received a puncture wound, we kept the two dogs separate. It was fine, though, as each one got special attention.
  • I went to McAlister’s Deli for the first time. The Orange Cranberry Club was delish!
  • Joined Grace Covenant Baptist Church and began making new friends
  • Subbed in some new schools. including McAdory Middle, McAdory High, Pleasant Grove High, West Elementary, Hueytown Middle, Oak Mountain Middle, Helena Middle, Helena High
  • Attended a few Saturday Write Club meetings at the Hoover Library
  • Went on five hikes
  • Took lots of pictures around Bham
  • Went to Jacksonville and squeezed in a lot of visits. Got to see my  cousin Paula for the first time in over 15 years
  • Spent a morning at Jacksonville Beach
  • Started the Kindred Spirit Book Club  – it’s online, so if you are interested, leave me a comment or email me.
  • Started Round Two of the Capture the ‘Ham Small Group/Photo Group3q2

And now to finish the year well!

 

Sharing the Love

alabamaI have come across some excellent local and not-so-local bloggers/articles because of the blogging groups I belong to, as well as  social media links. I’d like to share some good posts that I think would interest my readers.

  1. Touring wineries in the summer can be fun. You can read my post on Vizzini’s , and then read about a few other spots on the Shelby County Wine Trail written by Michele from A Southern Ruckus.
  2. If you visit Pepper Place or other local markets, you may have recently purchased some pink-eyes peas like we did last weekend. Here’s the down-low and some recipes from Garden & Gun Magazine.
  3. I was born in Athens, Georgia,but I haven’t been to Athens, Alabama yet. This post from Susan’s Cabinet  makes me want to go! It’s about the Athens Grease Festival
  4. For what to eat in Birmingham, look no further than this blog by the same name. Be sure to read the Trader Joe’s post.
  5. For a peep at Huntsville, read Discover Your Own City , then read more at The Remark. 
  6. For some Alabamian reading suggestions , check out this page at Three Friends and a Fork.
  7. The Leaf is the best local monthly magazine!

A Downtown Discovery

bf1

I scored two free tickets to see Big Fish on Thursday night. The catch (pardon the pun)? I wrote a review for a local paper. But I’d like to share a little bit of the experience that isn’t in the review.

Big Fish is playing September 11-October 4th at Red Mountain Theatre on 19th Street. Street parking was easy to get, but there is also a nearby parking garage. The entrance to the venue, in the Kress building, is nothing elaborate. As soon as you go in, you head downstairs. There it’s a different world. The area isn’t large, but the seats are comfortable, the stage and sets were fabulous, and the place serves drinks if you are so inclined.

A word of warning, though. DON”T use the bathrooms upstairs. Before the show, my friend and I needed to go and didn’t see any restrooms downstairs. They were there, just behind the curtain that hadn’t opened yet. So we found the restroom in the hall upstairs. It was like any other restroom in an office building. But, when I came out  of the stall to wash my hands, I was informed by a woman “You know these aren’t public bathrooms. I was wondering who was in here. These are for the lawyers.” I apologized, but I wanted to laugh. Clearly she needs to put a sign on the door that says “Lawyers Only”.  Maybe she should set up her office in there.

The show was fabulous, full of actors with local connections and wonderful voices. It was an evening of entertainment well worth the rebuff of the little lawyer.

The original article is Big Fish – A Big Performance! 

A Tale of Two Cities

wf  Jax           wfalB’ham

No, I’m not talking Dickens here. I’ve never been to London or France. But, I’m talking Jacksonville, Florida and Birmingham, Alabama. Two cities of the south , one dear to my heart and one growing on me.

safe

Safe cracking in underground Jax

Before I left Jax, my BFF and I did as much exploring as we could. We’d both grown up there, but never knew there was a small underground tunnel downtown, originally built to transfer money between banks.  And now I know  B’ham has walkable/drivable tunnels with lights.

SAMSUNG

Florida Theater

Both cities have grand old theaters.  The Florida Theater, a lovely art deco masterpiece, was where I saw many a performance, from The Nutcracker on field trips with my students, to Leo Kottke with my daughter, to Boz Scaggs, The Temptations and The Four Tops, and Loretta Lynn  with my BFF. I have yet to visit the Alabama, but it’s high on my list. The cool thing is they were both built in 1927.

sjrtc

St. Johns River                                                                Railroad Park

The music scene flourishes in both cities, as well as Minor League baseball. There are lovely old buildings and  modern ones, including a Wells Fargo in both as you can see in my pictures above. What Jacksonville has that Birmingham doesn’t is the St. Johns River flowing in it’s midst. But, B’ham has numerous well kept parks and more restaurants that attract people. The downtown doesn’t shut down at 5pm, as I discovered on Thursday when I met my #capturetheham group at Urban Standard for a walk-about in the area. I look forward to more downtown exploring in the months ahead!

Railroad Park

tried

Railroad along park perimeter

Thursday night I met a group of people for an enjoyable evening in Railroad Park. This was my first time there and I was super impressed! I didn’t know what to expect from a park in the middle of downtown, so I was pleasantly surprised.

This 19 acre park along 1st street is right next to Regions Field, home of the Barons. It has numerous paths to walk, water features, two playgrounds, grassy areas for play  or picnicking and even a designated areas for skaters.

0604151844   0604151912a

Small group practice                                               Softball practice at the park

The landscaping is gorgeous and I was there during prime photo time, just before sunset. I joined a “Capture the ‘ham” small group hosted by Jamie Golden. You can see our pictures under #capturetheham on Instagram. We will be meeting five more Thursdays this summer at a different location each time. Jamie gave us some great photo tips as well as some inspirational thoughts on capturing moments, but not just with our cameras. I hope to capture some moments with my heart as well.

parting shot

Parting shot on my way home

Adventures with a 17 year old in B’ham – Day 5

My brother-in-law and niece are in town this week. He came for the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. She has no little interest in baseball, so she and I set about exploring Birmingham.

Day 5

pp4

We were out the door by about 9:30, headed for Pepper Place Market. It seems every time I go the crowd gets larger – we had to park a little further away, but that was just fine.

pp5

I was more into shopping at the market than the niece was, but she helped me carry my bags. I got tomatoes, peaches, radishes, a basil plant, farm fresh eggs from free-range chickens, a t-shirt, and a nice cold peach tea.

pp7    pp6

One new feature at the market is the mister. What a great idea for a hot day!

pp1

Back home, we had burgers on the grill, then the hubs, brother-in-law, and niece went to the Florida vs. LSU baseball game at the Hoover Met. I stayed back to catch up on chores and such. They were happy when they got home – Florida won!

A Day Downtown

04251517210425151724

Today we enjoyed a trip downtown. First we went back to Pepper Place, our first trip this season. There I bought some Strawberry Preserves from Jim Suttle of Mountain Meadows Farms. As an organic farmer, Mr. Suttle knows how to “make lemonade out of lemons”. He uses no pesticides, so when this year’s strawberry crop had problems because of the excess rain, he salvaged some of the berries to make preserves. I then visited Red Rubin Nursery where I got a Chocolate Mint plant and some advice on how to keep it alive.

After a few more purchases, we went on the Magic City Art Connection at Linn Park.  There we found a huge selection of art for every taste. Some favorite artists were Marcus Ryan, Walt Stricklin, and Rick & Linda Bachman, Sarah Bean and Julie Schwarz.

Out last stop was the Birmingham Public Library where we happily stumbled upon a book sale! I got two: Once there Was a War by John Steinbeck and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes which held a sweet surprise – a letter to someone named Sarah. I love when I fall upon such treasures. I once found a baptismal certificate and a photograph from the 1940s in a book I bought at a different library’s sale.

The rain held off while we were out, so all in all it was a good day!