Lakeview Park

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Lakeview Park, c. 1887

Lakeview Park was a park in the Lakeview suburb of Birmingham located at the intersection of Highland and Clairmont Avenues. The 43-acre park was laid out in 1884 by the Elyton Land Company around a man-made lake which was created by damming up springs in the area. Various events occurred in the park, including opera performances on an island in the lake. The park was accessible by the streetcar system that ran along Highland Avenue.

One popular attraction at the park was the Lakeview Pavilion, which contained a swimming pool, skating rink, bowling alley, and dance floor. A Lakeview Hotel was built at the park in 1887, which was visited by Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. The Lakeview Theatre, a covered stage for open-air concerts and performances, opened in November 1890 with a performance by Mrs General Tom Thumb and her Japanese Troupe. The Summer of 1891 featured a lavish performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "H. M. S. Pinafore" staged on a replica ship floating in the lake, which was surrounded by electric lights. Later seasons fell short of that early high mark. The Alcazar Opera Company took the stage in 1895. Promoters advertised additional security for unescorted ladies during the 1896 season headlined by Trilby O'Farrell. In 1897 the theater hosted the Albert Taylor Company and a demonstration of Thomas Edison's Vitascope (invented two years earlier by Charles Jenkins and Thomas Armat, but marketed by the Edison Company). In 1901 the Elite Opera Company began performing at the park.

The park also was home the Lakeview Baseball Park which hosted a number of events. Arguably, the most important event that occurred at Lakeview Park was the first football game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University, which occurred on February 22, 1893. Auburn won the only game held at this site 32-22, as the next time the Iron Bowl was played in Birmingham was in 1902, after Lakeview Park closed.

On December 8, 1888 the bodies of Emma Hawes and her daughter Irene were found bound in chains at the bottom of the lake. Richard Hawes, already in custody for the death of his wife, became the target of a lynch mob at the Jefferson County Jail.

Eventually, the hotel lost patrons as they went to visit the East Lake Park. The hotel closed and became the Southern Female Institute, which burned a year later. In 1900, the pavilion was torn down to build the Highland Park Golf Course, which remains at this site. The Lakeview entertainment district retains the name of the park in the area. A section of the former baseball field was preserved as a grassy corner outside the Compass Bank operations center, with a historical marker describing the first Iron Bowl there.

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