20th Street North

From Bhamwiki
Jump to: navigation, search
looking south on 20th Street North in 2002
looking north on 20th Street North from Morris Avenue, c. 1900
looking north on 20th Street North from Morris Avenue, c. 1910-11

20th Street North is a north-south street in the center of downtown Birmingham which functions as Birmingham's "main street". It is sometimes called Birmingham Green after a rehabilitation project of the early 1970s.

20th Street begins at the northern end of 20th Street South at the Railroad Reservation. From there it first crosses Morris Avenue, and then continues for seven blocks to Park Place where it is terminated by Linn Park.

Short 20th Street is the one-block section of 20th Street between Birmingham City Hall and Linn Park. It was named Nina's Way in honor of Nina Miglionico in 2008. Originally 20th street bounded both sides of the park as East 20th Street and West 20th Street, but the east segment was abandoned as part of a compromise over the placement of the original Birmingham Public Library building in the late 1920s.

After this one-block section, Twentieth Street previously resumed its path to the east between the current locations of Municipal Auditorium and the Birmingham Museum of Art to the present site of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. After the I-20/59 bridge was built, this section was closed to traffic and eventually converted into a landscaped walk and fountain. There are other short sections of the street in North Birmingham, north of Oak Hill Cemetery and near Finley Boulevard.

20th Street was one of the city's earlier "whiteways" to have electric lighting. The lighting was upgraded and extended past 6th Avenue as far as Woodrow Wilson Park in 1945 under the city's contract with the Birmingham Electric Company.

Birmingham Green

1970 rendering for Birmingham Green

The Birmingham Downtown Improvement Association (BDIA) singled out the beautification of 20th Street as one of its major ambitions when it was formed in 1957. The idea was highlighted in Operation New Birmingham's 1960 recommendations for a "Comprehensive Beautification Program" and reiterated in the 1965 "Design for Progress".

As part of the campaign, Mrs. C. I. Dreyfus of the Birmingham Beautification Board proposed renaming 20th Street to "Vulcan Boulevard". The idea was taken up by businessman Temple Tutwiler, who touted the proposal as late as 1973.

Meanwhile, Tutwiler joined with Reese Murray, Marshall Haynes and Joseph Farley on a volunteer committee to study specific ways to beautify the downtown area. One of their recommendations was to widen sidewalks and add planters and benches to downtown streets, beginning with the seven blocks of 20th Street North, making it more friendly and attractive to pedestrians. New signage, lighting and street furniture would be included in the design. The additional space would be taken from parking and bus lanes, with transit stops moved to 19th Street North.

View looking South on 20th Street in May 1972

In 1970, ONB published a "Birmingham Green Plan", according to which $500,000 pledged by business and property owners would be supplemented with equivalent city funds in order to qualify for $1 million in federal grant money. When completed, the $2 million project would also include 19th Street between 1st and 3rd Avenue North and 2nd and 3rd Avenue North between 18th and 21st Street.

Architect James Adams prepared preliminary designs, saying of the proposal "We are knitting the fabric of the central business district with high quality thread -- that thread being the visual impact of the street scene." Planners hoped to attract more people to spend time downtown shopping and strolling. ONB would organize special committees to preserve the budget and to approve the design of specific additions, such as newspaper boxes and telephone booths. W. L. Jenkins designed and built the lighted stars and candy canes which decorated 20th Street in the 1970s. According to a December 1974 Birmingham News photo caption, "Major design companies have tried to hire him, 'But I just do this for fun,' he shrugged."

In January 1971, with only 11 of the 425 business and property owners who had agreed to support the project having contributed their pledges, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released their grant funds. The 20th Street portion of the Birmingham Green project was dedicated on September 14, 1973 at a cost of $1.9 million. The city carried out additional work over the next two years. Meanwhile, building owners leveraged the public investment in streetscaping by making improvements to their properties. B. A. Monaghan began a major renovation of the Nabers, Morrow & Sinnige building at 109–111 20th Street North in 1973.

A two-year $1 million project to extend tree plantings into Southside was completed in 1994.

Notable Locations (south to north)

For an alphabetical list of locations, see the 20th Street North category.

Central City neighborhood

Railroad Reservation

Morris Avenue

1st Avenue North

(Heaviest Corner on Earth)

2nd Avenue North

3rd Avenue North

20th Street looking south from 4th Avenue c. 1928

4th Avenue North

5th Avenue North

6th Avenue North

Park Place

20th Street shifts west, becomes known as Nina's Way (formerly Short 20th Street)

8th Avenue North

end of this section of 20th Street

North Birmingham neighborhood

References

  • "Whitson's Tenant Map of Birmingham" (1930s) compiled, published and periodically revised by Bethel W. Whitson Organization, engineers, surveyors and mapmakers for the Jemison Real Estate Service (Jemison Realty Co., Inc.)
  • "New look for our big town" (August 18, 1970) Birmingham News - via Birmingham Rewound
  • Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce (1976) Century Plus: A Bicentennial Portrait of Birmingham, Alabama 1976 Birmingham: Oxmoor Press, p. 16.

External links