Watts Building (1888)

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O. V. Hunt photograph of the Watts Building

The first Watts Building was a richly ornamented four-story Second-Empire style commercial building on the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue North and 20th Street in downtown Birmingham. It was constructed for Thomas Watts III by Charles M. Allen and Son in 1888 at a cost of $35,000. The building was designed by Charles Wheelock of Wheelock & Wheelock in the Second Empire style, with a rusticated base, grouped windows with brick arches on the second and third floors, and a deep cornice with a mansard roof above.

The Watts Building was home to an unusual number of artists studios and music teachers, along with other professional offices.

The building was offered for sale for $25,000 in 1896.

In 1927 Watts hired Allen & Son to demolish the 39-year-old building to make room for a new 17-story tower on the same site.


Early tenants in the Watts building included Lawson Carpet Co., architect J. W. McClain and the Eubank Brothers' dental parlor. In 1905 chemist Jefferson J. Peek opened his Peek Beverage Company in the Watts Building.

Among the law firms with offices in the Watts Building were Heflin & Bulger; James Little; L. C. Dickey and J. F. Gillespie; and Brooks & Brooks.