Frank Nelson Building

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Bert Covell's photograph of the First National Bank Building in 1904
Frank Nelson Building in March 2010

The Frank Nelson Building is a 10-story office building located on the northeast corner of 20th Street and 2nd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham. Constructed in 1903 as the First National Bank Building, it was one of the city's first "skyscrapers". It served as the headquarters for the First National Bank of Birmingham. The building was designed by William Weston with Charles Wheelock & Sons and cost about $700,000 to build.

A large vertical sign reading "FIRST NAT'L BANK" was attached to the corner of the 3rd-6th floors before 1906. In 1926 the bank negotiated a property swap with real estate developer Frank Nelson Jr. The bank would acquire the "Hood Corner" and adjoining parcels on the northwest corner of 20th Street and 3rd Avenue North in exchange for its building and one adjoining parcel. Nelson honored his part of the agreement by turning over the deeds to the Hood Corner properties. The bank, as agreed, retained its ownership of the existing building for a period not to exceed ten years, and began making monthly payments to Nelson (and to his estate after his death in 1928).

In 1930, however, First National Bank of Birmingham merged with American-Traders National Bank (which Nelson had co-founded) and which occupied the taller American Trust and Savings Bank Building on the southeast corner of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North. The combined bank remodeled the lower floors of that building and relocated in 1940.

Meanwhile, in 1936, at the end of its ten-year term, First National negotiated a new contract with Nelson's estate, including an option for the estate to purchase the bank building for $1,400,000. The building was, in fact, deeded to Nelson's heirs in 1939 and was re-named in his honor.

The Frank Nelson Building features retail shops along both 20th Street and 2nd Avenue. Those shops currently house a UPS Store, Trattoria Centrale, and Pita Loco. The corner space, previously home of A. & A. Ash Jewelers, now houses the offices of software developers Whiteboard It.

The offices served as the home of the Birmingham School of Law from 1996 to 2012. The Woodruff Manufacturing Company also has offices in the building.

Tenants

References

  • "British Shipping Industry" (August 6, 1903) Taranaki (New Zealand) Herald. Vol. 50, No. 12,325
  • First National Bank of Birmingham v. State (1954) 77 So. 2d 653
  • Satterfield, Carolyn Green (1976) "Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Alabama" Jefferson County Historical Commission

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