Smithfield (subdivision)

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Smithfield is a residential subdivision first developed in the 1880s on part of the former Joseph Riley Smith plantation west of Smith's Park at downtown Birmingham's western edge on 9th Street, and north of Valley Creek. The subdivision occupies part of today's Smithfield and Graymont neighborhoods.

Smith sold off the first lots from his estate in 1882, with the first work to lay out its 80-foot wide streets and avenues commencing with the incorporation of the Smithfield Land Company in November 1886. The neighborhood's street grid is oriented to the cardinal directions, approximately 30 degrees off of Birmingham's established grid. Smith named many of the early streets for his family, and for friends and neighbors. The first lots to be developed were along streetcar lines on 3rd and 8th Avenues.

The newly-opened residential section was one of the few in the rapidly-growing city which did not restrict Black residents from building or renting homes. While the greatest housing demand was from laborers and domestic workers, Smithfield also became noteworthy for its concentration of middle-class Black families and professionals, and the churches and businesses that served them. By 1898 more than half of the district's 250 households were African-American. By 1908 the neighborhood was more than 80% Black.

Smithfield was annexed into Birmingham in 1909. Birmingham's 1926 zoning ordinance, which remained in force until it was deemed unconstitutional in 1951, designated Smithfield as a Black residential area. By 1928 only three of the subdivision's 497 households were white. Many prominent homes in Smithfield were designed by Black architect Wallace Rayfield. Contractor T. C. Windham built many of those houses, as well as one of the district's first commercial buildings on 8th Avenue.

The Smithfield Historic District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, with its boundaries expanded in 1998.