Avondale Mill Village (Birmingham)

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This article is about the Avondale Mills workers' village in Birmingham, for others see Avondale Mill Village (disambiguation).

Avondale Mill Village was a section of housing near the Avondale Mills plant in Avondale. It was located between 4th Terrace North and 5th Court Alley North and between 37th and 40th Street North, behind the massive brick mill building.

In 1912 the village was described as housing 600 workers in about 130 one-story cube-shaped frame houses built over a flattened area of cinders. The district had no paved streets or sidewalks. Rows of saplings had been planted in front of the houses and patches of weeds and grass struggled through the cinders here and there. The alleys behind the houses were lined with ash-barrels and privies. The Comer School, provided for white children, was staffed by a single teacher. Though the school had an enrollment of 249, actual attendance averaged 97 pupils.

In 1910 sociologist Lewis Wickes Hine photographed child laborers in the mill and the adjoining village. Two years later, while researching an article for The Survey, A. J. McKelway found the "moral conditions" of the village to be "deplorable." According to one social worker, "broken-down mill girls" often found themselves residing in a "row of houses of uncertain reputation" dubbed "Hell's Half-Acre" at one end of the village.

In 1924 the company gave names to some of the alleys on which houses had been constructed. 4th Court Alley North, then called "4th Alley", south of what later became 5th Avenue North, which is now Messer Airport Highway, was renamed Shady Avenue. 3rd Avenue North was named Broad Avenue, and 2nd Avenue North was called Park Avenue.

During Donald Comer's presidency, many efforts were made to uplift the lives of workers and their families. He established a Boy Scout troop, in part to address vandalism carried out by idle boys. He instituted a profit sharing program in 1938 and, in the 1940s the company began offering loans for employees wishing to buy homes, many of which were located in the Morningside community between Huffman and Chalkville. He also opened an employee campground at Panama City, Florida.

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