Charleston Block

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The Steiner Block in an early postcard
The Charleston Block in 1921. Photographed by O. V. Hunt. courtesy BPL Archives

The Charleston Block (also called the Carolina Block, the Steiner Block, and the McDonald Building) was a 100-foot by 300-foot commercial building and tenement constructed in 1887-1888 on the corner of 19th Street North and 2nd Avenue in Bessemer.

The $125,000 development was financed by the Carolina Real Estate Company and designed by John Sutcliffe and A. J. Armstrong of Sutcliffe, Armstrong & Willett architects in elaborate Victorian commercial style. The McCrossin Brothers & Thomas were the contractors. It was built as a three-story building with a four-story central section along 2nd Avenue. The masonry walls were faced with pressed-brick and marble with cast iron ornaments.

The block's location, away from what had been planned as the center of town at 2nd and 21st, influenced the subsequent development of a commercial center around it. It was joined at the intersection by the Office Building, the Berney Brothers Block, and the Grand Hotel.

Major tenants of the Charleston Block included Fulton's Drug Store on the corner, the Birmingham Railway Light & Power Company, and the Bessemer Post Office. The upper floors were rented to workers, primarily of Eastern European origin, who had been recruited to operate the Bessemer Rolling Mill.

Before the end of the 1950s the building was reduced to two stories, with the upper floor left vacant. A metal screen was attached to the exterior of the upper level following storm damage suffered in 1963. The building was demolished in 2006 for construction of the Jefferson County Bessemer Justice Center.


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