Baby Doe's Matchless Mine

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Baby Doe's menu.jpg
Interior of Baby Doe's, c. 1989

Baby Doe's Matchless Mine was a theme restaurant at 2033 Golden Crest Drive atop Red Mountain near The Club and Vulcan.

Baby Doe's was part of a national chain created by Specialty Restaurants of Anaheim, California, founded by aviation collector David Tallichet, Jr. The Birmingham location opened in 1979. Other locations included Atlanta, Georgia; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.

The chain was named for Elizabeth McCourt "Baby" Doe Tabor (1854–1935), wife of a Central City, Colorado mine owner who herself worked in the mines. She was romanced away from her husband by Colorado Senator Horace Tabor, and moved with him to Leadville. It was there that, after his death, she futilely focused her attention on reopening the Matchless Mine. She was found dead of exposure in her cabin in 1935, having exhausted her supply of firewood. Her story inspired two books, a Hollywood film (Silver Dollar, 1932), and an opera (The Ballad of Baby Doe, 1956)

Like its siblings, the 550-seat Birmingham restaurant was sited to take advantage of panoramic views, specifically of Birmingham's skyline. The building was held up by piers, and was made of weathered wood and tin roofing from old buildings in Tennessee and Arkansas. It featured 10 dining rooms, a simulated mine tunnel and a downstairs lounge-cabaret that included a bar and an illuminated dance floor. The menu is remembered for its beer-cheese soup.

On August 10, 1983, Wanda Jones was abducted from the Baby Doe's parking lot during a private party, and taken to a house in Pinson where she was raped by several men. Three men, Stanley Wilson and brothers Kenneth and Michael Thornton, later pleaded guilty and were convicted of the crimes against Jones. Publicity about the case negatively impacted the restaurant.

Baby Doe's roof was severely damaged in the March 13 blizzard of 1993, and the restaurant subsequently closed for good. The building was later torn down.

In 2000, Specialty Restaurants of Anaheim, California attempted to obtain a permit to build Red Mountain Restaurant on the site. After a year and a half of delays, Specialty withdrew its plans. The Club purchased the 6 1/2 acre site on August 8, 2002 for $625,000.

References

  • Kihss, Peter F. (March 8, 1935) "Wait for Silver, Advised Tabor, And Widow Did--Unto Death," The Washington Post
  • Martin, Richard (February 25, 1985) "Tallichet's battle plan built on casual themes." Nation's Restaurant News
  • Coman, Victoria L. (October 11, 2000) "Eatery planned for Doe site will offer dining with a view." Birmingham News
  • Coman, Victoria L. (January 2, 2002) "Restaurant work to begin in Spring 2002". Birmingham News
  • Coman, Victoria L. (August 22, 2002) "The Club purchases site where Baby Doe's stood." Birmingham News

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