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Vintage Birmingham Alabama – Historic Downtown

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Description

I may not ever find a time machine, but sometimes old photos like this one of vintage Birmingham Alabama are the next best thing to a TARDIS. There are elements of vintage photographs that are, of course, familiar, but there are an array of small details that speak to a lost era.

The first element that most of us probably see in this old old photo is the streetcar on the downtown streets of vintage Birmingham. I know it was the key element that attracted me and made me want to restore this old print (originally published by Detroit Publishing in the early 1900s). Streetcars ran on the streets of Birmingham from the 1890s through the early 1950s. This vintage Birmingham print is from circa 1906 in the heyday of the classic electric streetcars.

But the elements of turn of the century life extend beyond the streetcars, the cobblestone streets, and period clothing. It’s in the little details like the functional awnings over the street windows seen here along 2nd Avenue North near the intersections of 19th and 20th streets. Notice how the awnings on the sunny side of the street are down while they are drawn up on the shady side. In an era without air conditioning in the old south, you wanted to control how much light came in during the hot days. These days most of our awnings are fixed and mostly decorative reminders of yesteryear.

The Birmingham streetscape a century later is much different, but there is one common element. The tall building you see looming ahead still stands. Known today as the Frank Nelson Building, this piece of vintage Birmingham, the First National Bank Building was one of the first skyscrapers in the city and was only a few years old when this photo was taken. Do you think any of the people walking along the streets of Birmingham that sunny morning imagined people would be looking at this photo of that long ago day over a century later?

It was a real pleasure cleaning up and bring out the original detail in this vintage Birmingham Alabama street scene. It’s such a cool blast from the past and deserved to be preserved for other actual and armchair historians to enjoy. Which camp do you fall into?

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