Bhamwiki:Common errors

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This page collects common errors perpetuated by residents and the media:

  1. Bull Connor is often referred to as "police chief". His title was "Public Safety Commissioner" on the Birmingham City Commission, giving him influence over the police and fire departments, which he routinely abused. Birmingham's police chief during the 1960s was Jamie Moore.
  2. A photograph of the Watts Building (1888) with empty carriages lined up around it is sometimes purported to depict the funeral of Lou Wooster. This is unlikely as the photograph was probably made 20 years before she died and probably advertises an undertaker who leased the ground floor space. Wooster's passage to the Oak Hill Cemetery was described in contemporary accounts as "unescorted".
  3. "City leaders" are commonly blamed for demolishing the Birmingham Terminal Station. In fact, the demolition was carried out by the Birmingham Terminal Company, a subsidiary of the Southern Railway, at the suggestion of developer William Engel, who was attempting to put together a redevelopment of the site for federal offices. Because it was the property of the railroad company, the city government did not issue any permits or exercise any direct influence in the decision to tear it down. The demolition permit was granted by the Alabama Public Service Commission, which stated that, "their authority is limited by law to consider only the convenience and necessity of the traveling public." Though it is incorrect to blame city leaders for any direct involvement, the degree to which they could be blamed for misunderstanding the public interest and failing to exercise whatever influence they had is debatable.
  4. Similarly, it is often said that the Birmingham Terminal Station was demolished for Red Mountain Expressway. It was, in fact, demolished for a proposed federal office complex that was never realized, and the vacant site was later used for the expressway, to avoid running through Metropolitan Gardens.
  5. The Birmingham Zoo and Birmingham Botanical Gardens are both in the Birmingham city limits, not Mountain Brook.
  6. Likewise, the Barber Motorsports Park is in the city limits of Birmingham, not Leeds.
  7. Erskine Ramsay never offered money to parents who named their sons for him. He did once open $100 savings accounts for all the Erskines he knew of, and later sometimes sent small gifts to parents who wrote him. (See Baggett, James L. (Winter 2011) "Erskine Ramsay's many namesakes". Alabama Heritage. No. 99, pp. 8-9)
  8. The Vulcan Materials Company, one of the city's largest corporations, is not named for Birmingham's Vulcan, but for the Vulcan Detinning Company of Sewaren, New Jersey, which Birmingham Slag acquired in 1956.
  9. There is a common misperception that Legion Field is "crumbling". There were structural issues with the upper decks. The city elected to remove them rather than to repair and maintain them. The remaining stadium is structurally sound.
  10. The "swastikas" on the 1931 Jefferson County Courthouse should not be associated with Nazism. They were a typical geometrical flourish common in art-deco design. Germany's Nazi party had adopted a similar swastika on their flag, but it was still several years before the American public would have made any connection between the symbol and the Third Reich. Likewise it is unlikely that they were consciously adopting the design in connection with their use in Hindu, Navajo or any other religious or cultural tradition. The use on the courthouse is as "doodads", not as symbols.
  11. St Clair County is sometimes mistakenly spelled out as "Saint Clair County". It was named for the Revolutionary War General Arthur St Clair, not for a Catholic saint. (It is therefore properly alphabetized after Shelby County.)
  12. Many are convinced that Birmingham Municipal Airport would have, except for some bumbling reason, become a major Southeastern commercial airline hub, rather than Atlanta's airport; and that had that happened, Birmingham would have experienced Atlanta's commercial growth. There are various suggested reasons, including a 1940s city tax on aviation fuel, close-mindedness in the city's business community, FAA restrictions on segregated facilities or on flight paths, the reputation Birmingham gained under Bull Connor, or some even less substantial slight involving the USPS, Eastern Airlines or Delta Airlines. There are a lot of unfounded stories circulating, and little evidence from which to form any definite conclusions. It is possible that an early 1970s speech made to Birmingham business leaders by Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield helped fuel the rumor mill. He reportedly said that, "Birmingham didn't do anything. [Atlanta] rolled out a red carpet with both of the two motorcycles we had at the time." (source)
  13. It is often related that Federal Aviation Administration rules limit the height of buildings in downtown Birmingham. The FAA has indeed published regulations that would effectively limit the heights of structures near airports. In 1963 it was hoped that some of those "glide path restrictions" would soon be relaxed and a new zoning code was proposed to allow for buildings to be constructed to 1,143 feet above mean sea level (or approximately 535 feet above the average downtown grade of 608). The agency would still have the authority to review zoning ordinances and specific plans for tall buildings for their potential impact on airport operations. However, no specific height limit for downtown Birmingham structures is currently recognized.
  14. There is much discussion of an "underground river" flowing through Birmingham. Water definitely flows through crevices below the city, and even in some channels accessible from sub-basements, but the large navigable free-flowing river of popular imagination is grossly overstated.
  15. There is an urban legend about a grieving mother having her son's body preserved and displaying it on her porch in Enon Ridge. The origin of the story is undocumented. A photo purported to show the boy's body is a photograph of a commonly-reproduced statue of a black boy holding a fishing pole that was originally manufactured in the 1890s in terra cotta by Friedrich Goldscheider of Vienna, Austria, from a model sculpted by B. Haniroff. (link)

Commonly misspelled names

See also