Sibyl Temple

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Sibyl Temple in 2006

The Sibyl Temple was originally built in 1929 as a garden gazebo at Vestavia, the Shades Mountain estate of former Birmingham Mayor George Ward. It is a replica of the Temple of Sibyl in Tivoli, Italy near Rome. It now sits atop Shades Mountain along U.S. Highway 31 at Shades Crest Road in Vestavia Hills, which takes its name from the former estate.


George Ward designed Sibyl Temple himself. In addition to being a gazebo, it also served as the entrance to a bird santuary on his estate. Ward had planned for Temple to act as a gigantic headstone for his own grave and built a burial crypt in a cave under it. A change in the county law before his death prevented this and he was buried in Elmwood Cemetery instead after his death in 1940.

The temple was originally rose-colored and featured a chandelier, benches, and weather vane. These features were removed and the Temple painted white during restoration efforts by Charles Byrd to turn the deteriorating estate into a restaurant. Vestavia Hills Baptist Church purchased the property in 1958. The church had the house demolished in 1971, but spared the temple, donating it to the Vestavia Hills Garden Club.

In 1976, the Vestavia Hills Garden Club had Harbert Construction Corporation relocate Sibyl Temple from the former estate site to the northern limit of Vestavia Hills at the crest of Shades Mountain adjacent to U.S. Highway 31, establishing it as the symbol of the city. The dedication ceremony was held on April 8, 1976 as part of the Vestavia Hills Dogwood Festival. The Garden Club has maintained the temple as a special project since then. On October 28, 1985, the temple was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

In 1991, the Sibyl Temple Foundation was founded as a non-profit organization to promote and preserve the temple. The Foundation now handles the temple's day-to-day operations and manages its grounds. In 2003, the Foundation, in partnership with the Vestavia Hills Garden Club, began a fundraising campaign to restore the temple.

Using these funds, the temple was painstakingly restored in 2004 over four months by restoration artist Ann Beaird. The Foundation and Garden Club continued their fundraising efforts in order to re-landscape, expand the property, and are currently raising money to construct restrooms. Some of the money was raised from the sale of personalized bricks used to pave a walkway surrounding the temple.

In September 2013, lighting was installed to illuminate the temple blue as part of the Vestavia Hills Police Department's Opration Blue Shield traffic fatality awareness initiative. The temple was first illuminated blue on January 27, 2014 after a fatal accident the previous day on I-65 claimed the life of Michael O'Bryant Chatmon, a truck driver from Childersburg.


Sibyl Temple is made up of eight 16-foot, steel-reinforced concrete columns supporting a 63-ton, concrete dome roughly 20 feet in diameter. The columns weigh three tons each. When the temple was moved, the columns were dismantled with blowtorches. Castings had to be made of the Corinthian decorations prior to dismantling because they could not survive the torch.


  • "History of the Sibyl Temple." (n.d.) [1] Sibyl Temple Foundation. Accessed January 19, 2007.
  • Riley, Cindy. (Summer 2004). "Vestavia's Sibyl Temple." [2] Alabama Heritage. University of Alabama Press.
  • Almond, Mark (January 28, 2014) "Vestavia Hills' Sibyl Temple glows blue after a traffic fatality." The Birmingham News

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