Alston Building

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From across Greensboro Avenue in December 2009.

The Alston Building (also known as the Alston Place Building) is a seven story office building located on the corner of Greensboro Avenue and 6th Street in downtown Tuscaloosa. Completed in 1909, the Alston Building is considered to be Tuscaloosa's first "skyscraper."

The idea for the building was that of Tuscaloosa city alderman and then president of City National Bank Samuel Alston. The location of the tower was selected as the site of the former Tuscaloosa County Courthouse which had been destroyed by fire. Completed in 1909, at the time of its opening, the Alston Building claimed to be the "tallest building east of Chicago on a dirt road" (Greensboro Avenue was subsequently paved in 1912).

The Alston Building was designed by the Birmingham architectural firm Carson & Thetherow. Originally envisioned to have eight stories, the final construction rose seven stories to a height of 85 feet exclusive of the elevator penthouse. The building features a steel frame with an exterior sheathed with a yellow brick facade. Its facade presents a defined vertical and horizontal form typical of Sullivanesque or Chicago school commercial buildings championed by the Chicago architect Louis Sullivan in the early 20th century.

The Alston Building remained Tuscaloosa's tallest until the completion of the Merchants Bank & Trust building one block to the north in 1925. The building was noted for the large sign on its roof that stated "Try Tuscaloosa." The offices of the United Klans of America were located in suite 401 of the Alston Building in 1963.

In 1979, the building was purchased with the intent to convert the upper six floors into office condominiums. At that time, the building was totally gutted on the interior, however increasing interest rates resulted in the project failing to get adequate financing, and remained on hold through the mid-1980s. The renovation was finally completed in 1985. Today, the building is still used primarily for office space with a couple of retail tenant spaces located on the ground level.


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