Sloss Quarters

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Sloss Quarters, commonly the quarters, was the community surrounding Sloss Furnaces in downtown Birmingham and North Birmingham where most of the labor force resided.

The original quarters was built up during the 1880s on property owned by the Sloss Furnace Company just north of the furnaces. The company constructed 48 small cottages for Black workers. These were typically 2-room framed shotgun houses raised on brick piers. Originally there was no plumbing to the houses. Residents used rain barrels to collect water for gardening and laundry. A faucet tap at the end of each row could be used for drinking, cooking and bath water. Indoor plumbing began to be installed at some of the houses in the 1930s.

Thomas School, a public school for Black children in East Birmingham opened in the 1880s. New Hope Baptist Church was organized at Sloss Quarters in 1892. By 1911 the company had acquired several blocks to the east of the original Sloss Quarters and constructed numerous frame duplex houses.

Before 1920 the company constructed a commissary, infirmary and generator vault our of brick and stone on Block 484, just northeast of the corner of 1st Avenue North and 32nd Street. The commissary, or "company store" also served as a pay office. At times, workers could be paid all or part of their wages in "scrip" which could be exchanged for goods at the store, such as groceries, seeds, shoes, fabric, and tools. The infirmary was staffed by Doctor W. B. McQueen who was on staff for 35 years. He tended to illness and injuries, administered inoculations and delivered babies, often by house call.

Those buildings remain, vacant, in the shadow of the 1st Avenue North viaduct. U.S. Pipe & Foundry donated that property to the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in 2005.

Most of the housing at Sloss Quarters was demolished between 1951 and 1956. The former James Duncan residence, constructed in 1905 in Tarrant, was donated to the Birmingham Historical Society in 1985 and relocated to the Sloss Furnaces site. It was restored to serve as offices for the society, and as an exhibit of the type of house that would have been occupied by a supervisor's family at Sloss Quarters. A "Grandmother's garden" featuring native herbs and heirloom plants was maintained next to the house for educational purposes.

In 2021 the Sloss Furnaces Foundation was awarded a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts to assess the feasibility of renovating the commissary, infirmary and generator vault for use by the Sloss Metal Arts program. Design Initiative and Dynamic Civil Solutions worked to develop a conceptual plan. Current plans include using the former generator vault for studio space, converting the infirmary into an exhibit about Sloss Quarters, and using the former commissary as an art gallery and event space, which could also extend into the outdoor courtyard.

Sloss Furnaces
Events Magic City Brewfest · Preserve Jazz Festival · Sloss Fright Furnace · Stokin' the Fire BBQ Festival
Exhibits Engine No. 4018 · Sloss Quarters
Owners Sloss Furnace Company · Sloss Iron & Steel Company · Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Company · U.S. Pipe · Jim Walter Corporation
People Joseph Johnston · Theophilus Jowers (The Ghost in Sloss Furnaces) · Hugh Morrow · James Sloss
Programs Sloss Metal Arts · Sloss Performing Arts Program


  • "House finds home at Sloss" (September 1985) Magic City News, Vol. 2, No. 12
  • Gallet & Associates (August 4, 2003) "Phase I site assessment former Sloss commissary building parcel 32nd Street North and 1st Avenue North Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama." for U.S. Pipe & Foundry Company
  • Wolfson, Hannah (August 6, 2009) "In Birmingham historical society grows a garden the old-fashioned way." The Birmingham News
  • Utz, Karen R. & Sloss Furnaces Foundation (2009) Sloss Furnaces. Images of America Series. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738566238
  • "Improvements at the Duncan House" (October 2013) Newsletter, Birmingham Historical Society, p. 2
  • Ebersole, Jun; Bruce Bizzoco, Katelyn Reed & Sharyn Jones (January 1, 2014) "Preliminary Investigation of Sloss Quarters at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark (1-Je-488), Jefferson County, Alabama." Alabama Historical Commission. Tracking No. 12-0699
  • Watson, Nathan (January 13, 2023) "Renovation planned for historic Sloss Quarters site in Birmingham." Bham Now