Collegeville

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Collegeville
Seal of birmingham.jpg
Birmingham neighborhoods
District(s) 4
Community North Birmingham community
President Vivian Stark
Meeting site Calloway School, (map)
Meeting day 1st Monday
Website

Collegeville is a neighborhood in the North Birmingham community of Birmingham. It is bounded to the north by 35th Avenue North, to the south by 27th Avenue North, to the east by Boyles Yard, and to the west by more railroads. The neighborhood is bisected by Fred L. Shuttlesworth Drive (formerly Huntsville Road), which is the only through-street connecting Collegeville to the rest of the city.

The Collegeville neighborhood is part of Birmingham City Council District 4. The Collegeville Neighborhood Association meets on the 1st Monday of each month at the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity offices in the former Calloway School on 34th Terrace North. The president is Vivian Stark.

History

Collegeville developed as an industrial area with worker's housing built adjacent to factories and mills owned by the Sloss-Sheffield Corporation, L&N Railroad, Southern Railroad, U. S. Pipe, Jim Walters Corporation and GATX Tank Corporation. Isolated by industrial tracts and railyards, it was one of the few neighborhoods reserved for black residents under Birmingham's segregation laws.

The neighborhood took its name from the Lauderdale College elementary school, sometimes called "the college", which operated at the corner of 27th Court and 34th Place North until it burned in 1916. The neighborhood is home to Bethel Baptist Church, the pulpit of Fred Shuttlesworth and a pivotal organizing site during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. The church is one of Birmingham's three National Historic Landmarks.

In the late 1950s George Washington Carver High School was built in the neighborhood, joining Hudson School and Calloway School. The 550-unit Collegeville Housing Community was constructed as part of an urban renewal project in 1964. Maclin Park, adjacent to the project, serves the entire neighborhood.

In the early 1970s the city invested in covering ditches, repaving streets, clearing dilapidated structures and creating community programs such as a Birmingham Police Athletic League team. The Birmingham Police Department also instituted the Collegeville Pilot Project, putting heavy heat on criminal activity in the neighborhood during 1970. The public responded by improving cooperation with police investigations. These efforts were spurred in large part by Lula Menefee, chairman of the Collegeville-Harriman Park Coordinating Community. She urged Operation New Birmingham's Community Affairs Committee to tour the district, which they found in appalling condition. They, in turn, appealed to the Jefferson County Department of Health to enforce sanitation laws in absentee-owned properties and to the City of Birmingham for assistance in securing water and sewer connections to under-served pockets of houses.

By 1980 it could be reported that, although the air remained sulfurous, community life was healthy and active among the neighborhood's 7,000 residents, nearly 100% black. Nevertheless, two decades later the community was still known primarily for its low incomes and limited opportunities. Trained In, a 2007 documentary film by University of Alabama students Allison Stagg and Kevin Garrison featured interviews with Collegeville residents talking about how the community has been affected by being cut off from the rest of the city. The film was screened as part of the 2007 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

In January 2008 Mayor Larry Langford announced plans to revitalize the neighborhood through public and private investments. In addition to repairing streets, sidewalks and drainage, he proposed demolishing the former Carver High School, building new homes on vacant lots, and contributing $1 million toward the renovation of Bethel Baptist, now a popular stop on the Civil Rights Trail for African American heritage tourism.

Other projects pushed by Birmingham City Council District 4 representative are a flyover to extend Finley Avenue over the railroad tracks into Collegeville, helping connect the neighborhood to traffic throroughfares, and pedestrian and vehicle overpasses to allow residents and emergency vehicles to safely and conveniently cross the railroad tracks running between 29th Avenue North and 30th Court North.

References