Tuxedo Park

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This article is about the large public park. For the residential subdivision, see Tuxedo Park subdivision. For the apartment community, see Tuxedo Park Apartments, for the small park in Tuxedo Heights, see Tuxedo Heights Park

Tuxedo Park is a 3.7-acre public park located between 13th and 16th Streets and between Avenue U and Avenue T in Ensley.

The park, then stretching over 36 privately-owned lots, had been in use since at least the 1920s. A 50' x 100' swimming pool had become popular as the only pool open to Black swimmers in the area. In 1928, in addition to the pool, the park had a bathhouse, skating rink, shooting gallery and dancing pavilion.

In the early 1930s the Birmingham Red Cross operated and maintained the park. A proposal was made in 1933 to relocate the playground at Councill School to Tuxedo Park, but no action was taken. The storm drainage system was improved during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. In 1939 the park buildings were all in poor condition.

In the early 1940s William McAlpine, representative of the Alabama State Federation of Civic Leagues, was instrumental in efforts to expand the number of city parks for Black residents of Birmingham. Then owners Joe Denaburg, R. M. Kimbrough, Maurice Bishop and G. C. Prowell asked for a combined $15,000 for the 36 lots, but agreed to lower the price to $12,500 if an outstanding $1,200 lien from the WPA work was forgiven. Commissioner Bull Connor insisted that the cost of the lien not fall to the city.

After pledges of $5,000 each from Erskine Ramsay and Louis Pizitz the idea was approved by the Birmingham City Commission, which appropriated an additional $3,600 to the Birmingham Park Board to complete the purchase. Ultimately, $12,750 in private donations made the opening of the park possible.

The board planned to honor McAlpine, who died in 1943, by naming the expanded park in his memory. Many residents, however, preferred to preserve the park's association with Tuxedo Junction, the nearby streetcar hub made famous in Erskine Hawkins' jazz standard. McAlpine was instead made the namesake of a larger new park in Pratt City.

Architect E. B. Van Keuren prepared pro bono designs for a service building and bathhouse for the park and supervised the refurbishment of the swimming pool. A. G. Gaston's Brown Belle Bottling Co. won the bid to construct and operate a concession stand for $100/month plus a percentage of gross receipts. The reconditioned swimming pool, the only public pool open to Black residents, opened on August 12 of that year for a short season.

The park hosted regular concerts by members of the American Federation of Musicians Local No. 733. Beginning as early as 1945, the Smith & Gaston Kiddie Club used Tuxedo Park for programs. In 1952 the organization brought 3,000 children from across the state for a play day and picnic.

Like all other city parks, Tuxedo Park was closed by the City Commission in 1963 in order to avoid court-ordered integration, and reopened in 1964 when those ordinances were repealed by the newly-elected Birmingham City Council.

Currently the park is undeveloped, consisting of cleared land with a few stands of mature trees. The Village Creek Park Master Plan, adopted by the Village Creek Society in 2010, anticipates a larger 42-acre multi-use park which would encompass all of Tuxedo Park, most of which would be excavated for a proposed lake.

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