Florentine Building

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Florentine Building in 2007

The Florentine Building or Sims Building is a two-story, terra-cotta clad building on the southeast corner of 2nd Avenue North and 21st Street, the former site of the Jefferson County Bank Building. It was built between 1925 and 1927 for the Club Florentine by Henry Upson Sims. Architect David O. Whilldin designed the foundations to support an eventual 10-story building, but only the lower two floors, totaling about 23,000 square feet, were ever completed. One legend has it that the excavation revealed an underground stream which required the change in plans.1.

The Italianate style is highly decorated with colored terra-cotta ornament framing two arcades supported by marble columns. Cast iron lanterns and shop windows enhance the decorative scheme. The eaves are crowned by a short red-tile roof. At the time it was said to have been the most costly building constructed in the city (by the square foot.) Legend has it that Sims built the exuberant structure to honor a much-loved schoolteacher, Hannah Elliott, who had taken him and his classmates on a tour of Italy.2.

The club itself was unsuccessful. For a while the building's main floor was the home of Jefferson County Savings Bank. Other tenants have included the Alabama Acceptance Corporation, Tony's Terrific Hot Dogs & Sandwiches, Brunswick Billiards and armed forces recruitment offices. Currently Shelby Finance, Nuke's Barber Shop and Loretta's Alterations Shop operate out of the ground floor. The upper level has housed a succession of nightclubs, including Focus Phase II and Club 21.

The building was purchased in 1966 by R. D. Thompson, who repaired some of the facade details.

In 2008 Ken Effinger and Rebecca Corretti, the owners of Corretti Catering, purchased the building from attorney Jack Hall. At the time, they planned on having the exterior facades carefully cleaned and hoped to open an Italian restaurant and bakery on the ground floor and an event space with a commercial kitchen on the upper floor. $2.5 million in renovations began in 2014, with Corretti Catering, a new bar, and new restuarant slated to open in the building that summer.


  1. Bryant-1975
  2. White - 1986


  • White, Marjorie Longenecker, editor (1977) Downtown Birmingham: Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide. Birmingham: Birmingham Historical Society. p. 76
  • Satterfield, Carolyn Green (1976) Historic Sites of Jefferson County, Alabama. Birmingham: Jefferson County Historical Society. p. 38
  • Keith, Walling (October 17, 1966) "Preserve some of past." The Birmingham News Daily Magazine
  • White, Marjorie Longenecker, conversation with James Rodger Alexander (September 27, 1986) cited in Alexander's exhibit catalogue Terra Cotta Facades of Birmingham Architecture (1986) Birmingham: UAB Visual Arts Gallery
  • Bryant, Walter (November 27, 1975) "Underground river helped shape city". The Birmingham News
  • Cooper, Lauren B. (May 16, 2008) "Long-neglected Florentine Building slated for renovation." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Williams, Roy L. (June 7, 2008) "Couple buy Birmingham's Florentine Building to spice up catering business." The Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (January 17, 2014) "Downtown Birmingham's Florentine Building to start $2.5 million renovation into restaurant, ballroom." The Birmingham News

External links

  • Keily, Alfred C. (April 29, 1949) Photograph of Sims Building at the Birmingham Public Library Archives Digital Collections. Alfred C. Keily Collection, No. 820