The Bankhead Towers (formerly the Bankhead Hotel) is a 15-story apartment building located on the northeast corner of 23rd Street at 5th Avenue North. Constructed as a 350-room hotel in 1926 and named for Senator John H. Bankhead, the building, expanded in 1977, is now divided into 251 subsidized apartments for senior citizens.
The $1.5 million hotel was constructed near the Birmingham Terminal Station. The concrete-framed, brick-clad building was designed in a Beaux-Arts style by the Chicago, Illinois architectural firm of H. L. Stevens and Company. Limestone trim on the ground floor and on the upper stories was obtained from Rockwood Quarries in Franklin County.
The hotel was managed by R. E. Hyde through the 1930s. In 1928 brothers Charlie and Ira Stripling launched their old-time music careers with an improvised recording session at the Bankhead. From 1932 to 1936 radio station WBRC-AM's studios and transmission tower were located in the Bankhead Hotel. J. A. "Jack" Seager was manager in 1948. The building was purchased in 1953 by the Atlanta-based Dinkler Hotel System, and sold in 1954 to the Pick Hotels Corporation of Chicago, which operated it as the Pick-Bankhead.
In April 1949 a group of Philadelphia Phillies players staying at the Bankhead were robbed of $891 while they slept. During the early 1950s, the hotel featured "The Pirate Room" nightclub "in a cave under the Bankhead Hotel", with two shows nightly headlined by Sunny Fox. The Federal Bureau of Investigation put up its explosive experts in the Bankhead during their investigations into a streak of bombings against Civil Rights activists. On November 6, 1965 a man visiting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana stood on the roof ledge for 30 minutes, threatening to jump to his death and attracting a crowd of hundreds of onlookers before he was coaxed to safety.
The hotel closed in the late 1960s, leaving the building vacant for the next several years.
In the mid-1970s the hotel was expanded and renovated for use as senior housing. Davis, Speake & Associates provided architectural services and Lawler-Wood Associates of Knoxville, Tennessee performed the work.
- "Man Grabbed Before Leap" (November 7, 1965) Tuscaloosa News
- Bankhead Towers on Emporis.com