|City of Vestavia Hills|
|School district||Vestavia Hills City Schools|
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Vestavia Hills (incorporated November 8, 1950) is an "Over the Mountain" suburb of Birmingham with a population of just over 34,000 on 19.6 square miles. It is named for "Vestavia", the estate of former Birmingham Mayor George Ward atop Shades Mountain.
On July 26, 1907 the South Birmingham Heights Land Company was incorporated with the idea of developing a residential community on the southern slope of Shades Mountain near the present site of Vestavia Lake. The plan, which would have required a streetcar link to Birmingham, was unsuccessful.
Around the same time, attorney Edgar Smyer began purchasing land, eventually about 500 acres, on Shades Mountain between Lakeshore Drive, Montgomery Highway, Cahaba Road, the Shades Mountain Filter Plant, and Rocky Ridge Road. Beginning in 1915 he built an access road from Cahaba Road to the top of Shades Mountain, now a public street called Smyer Road. By 1922, Shades Crest Road extended from the end of Smyer Road to Montgomery Highway and Smyer's "country residence", known as Rockhurst, was completed. The following year, George Ward purchased 20 acres from Robert A. Porter along Shades Crest and began planning his Classically-inspired estate, "Vestavia", which soon became known as an architectural curiosity in postcards and souvenir views.
A number of other private homes on Shades Crest and just south were built over the following decades. Leonard Terrell opened the Terrell Store, the community's first general store, in 1926. Other early businesses, opening during the 1930s and 40s, were Shades Mountain Pan Am Service Station, Kelly's Cabins, Club 31, Askin's Drive-In Restaurant, Joe's Ranch House, Colmant Nursery, and the Shades Mountain Drive-In Theatre.
In 1946 developer Charles Byrd acquired Ward's deteriorating estate, restored, it, and opened it to the public as a roadside attraction and tea room in 1949. The venture lost money, and he sold the estate to Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in 1958.
In the meantime, Byrd was also busy developing the land south of Shades Crest into a community of 1,000 homes with "fully restricted" covenants to insure that "desireability" would be maintained. The first of these covenants stipulated that "...said property shall be used by white persons only, except that any servant or servants employed on the premises may occupy the servant's quarters..."
Other developers, including Emmett Cloud, also capitalized on the appeal of newly-accessible suburban housing "Over the Mountain". The fast-growing town secured the construction of a new Vestavia Hills Elementary School as part of the Jefferson County School System in 1948.
By 1950 there were 607 residents in the area, and a petition for incorporation, drafted by Robert Gwin, was filed in Jefferson County Probate Court in September of that year. An election was held on October 24, 1950 with the result of 88 votes for incorporation and 8 against. Judge Tom C. Garner signed the incorporation papers for the City of Vestavia Hills on November 8, 1950.
The Vestavia Hills City Hall was constructed in 1956, on Highway 31, which was being widened to four lanes at the time. The same year saw the first part of the Vestavia Hills Shopping Center, also on 31, open. In 1960 the Council created the Vestavia Hills Park and Recreation Board to oversee planning and construction of a major municipal park and recreation center on land purchased from sisters Edna and Mildred Wald and Pearl Marcuse. Wald Park opened in stages, beginning in 1962. A library board was created in 1964 to oversee development of the Vestavia Hills Public Library, which opened, as part of the Vestavia Hills Civic Center in Wald Park in April, 1969.
Continued residential development was paralleled by annexation to increase the population of the city. the Vesthaven subdivision was annexed in 1964 and the town of Mountain Woods, incorporated in 1965, merged with Vestavia Hills in 1966. Overcrowding of area schools led to the creation of the Vestavia Hills School System in 1970. In 1976, Ward's Sibyl Temple was relocated from his former estate to the northern limit of Vestavia Hills at the crest of Shades Mountain adjacent to Highway 31, establishing it as the symbol of the city. The Vestavia Belles, dressed in hoop skirts, acted as the city's official hostesses at civic functions.
The most recent major expansion of Vestavia Hills was the controversial 1995 annexation of Liberty Park on I-459, a large-scale mixed-use development that was two miles away from the closest part of the city (until the 2002 annexation of Cahaba Heights.)
The City's first municipal election, held December 19, produced the first mayor, Verner L. Adams, and five councilmen, elected at-large from a pool of 9 candidates. The first meeting of the council was on January 3, 1951 in the offices of the Byrd Real Estate Company and Gwin was appointed "Town Attorney".
The current mayor is Butch Zaragoza and Mary Lee Rice presides over the five-member council. On August 4, 2010 Vestavia Hills residents voted 1,778 to 1,144 to change the form of government, reducing the Council to four members and adding the position of "City Manager" to oversee day to day operations. The change is set to take effect on the first Monday of November 2012.
As of the Census of 2010, there are 34,033 people residing in the city. The population density was 1,734.0/mi². There were 14,952 housing units at an average density of 761.8/mi². The racial makeup of the city was 90.4% White, 3.76% African American, 0.20% Native American, 3.83% Asian, and 0.81% from other races. 2.45% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
In 2000, there were 9,841 households out of which 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.1% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.1% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $70,623, and the median income for a family was $89,746. Males had a median income of $72,837 versus $37,083 for females. The per capita income for the city was $40,392. About 2.2% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.6% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.
The Jefferson County Board of Equalization evaluated 9,371 homes in Vestavia Hills and determined that the average market value for 2007 was $367,308, a 7.4% increase since 2006.
- Whiting, Marvin Yeomans (2000) Vestavia Hills, Alabama: A Place Apart Birmingham: Vestavia Hills Historical Society
- "Vestavia Hills, Alabama" (October 13, 2006) Wikipedia - accessed November 1, 2006
- Annual Estimates of the Population for All Incorporated Places in Alabama (CSV). (June 21, 2006) 2005 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division - accessed November 9, 2006.
- "Election results: Bessemer mayor and council, Mountain Brook council, Vestavia Hills referendum." (August 24, 2010) The Birmingham News
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