As predicted, Norwood attracted the cream of Birmingham's industrial
entrepreneurs as well as average middle and upper-middle class
businessmen. Residents included doctors, grocers, teachers, engineers,
lawyers, and veterinarians.
In 1925, one of Birmingham's premier architectural firms, Warren,
Knight and Davis, designed a neighborhood elementary school on
Norwood Boulevard. Birmingham Realty had been lobbying for a
school since it first started developing Norwood in 1913. Perhaps it
was no coincidence that Dr. J. H. Phillips, the Superintendent of
Birmingham Schools, lived on Norwood Boulevard at the time.
By 1928, residents could catch a streetcar at the pavilion at the
intersection of Norwood Boulevard and 32nd Street and ride down the
hill to the central business district. High school students could take
the streetcar to Phillips High School at 6th Avenue and 24th Street.
Throughout the 1920's and the 1930's, Norwood was a stable,
prosperous neighborhood. Its ideal location made it home to some of
Birmingham's civic, business, and corporate leaders. The streets were
lined with large and comfortable homes in a variety of architectural
styles. It boasted a good transportation system, excellent educational
facilities, numerous religious institutions and convenient health care
Despite its elevated location, Norwood was trapped between the
industrial centers of Birmingham and North Birmingham and suffered
from the heavy smoke and haze that lingered in the air. In the 1930's
new residential subdivisions on the other side of Red Mountain began
to attract homebuilders anxious to escape the smoke and haze. The
new subdivisions advertised that they were, "free of smoke and dust"
and that buyers could move "out of the smoke and into the ozone."
As many of the residents of older neighborhoods moved into Shades
Valley, Mountain Brook became the focus of Birmingham society.
Nevertheless, Norwood continued to be viewed as an economically
stable neighborhood throughout most of the 1940's. After World War II,
however, Norwood began to slip into a slow decline.
In 1968, Interstate 20/59 cut a wide path through the City of
Birmingham, severing Norwood from downtown. During the 1960's
Norwood began to see a mass exodus of its white residents to the
subdivisions on the other side of Red Mountain. Through the 1960’s
and 1970’s, the neighborhood transitioned from almost exclusively
white to almost exclusively African American. Over time, and as a
result of the shift in demographics, generations of families, both
African American and white, have called Norwood home and treasure
fond memories of their lives there.
Today, the beauty of Norwood is virtually unchanged. Developed at
the height of the Arts and Crafts Period, most of the earlier homes
reflect the style and sensibilities associated with that era. Some of the
later homes, primarily on Norwood Boulevard, reflect the diversity in
architectural styles that were coming into vogue throughout the 1920s
and 1930’s. While some of the neighborhood's houses have been lost to
fire or other causes, most of the neighborhood's fine homes are still
intact and occupied. Fortunately, the Norwood Neighborhood
Association has taken a proactive approach to preserve the
neighborhood's beauty and elegance.
In October 2001, Norwood Boulevard Historic District was listed on
the National Register of Historic Places which is administered by the
National Park Service. The Norwood Neighborhood Association is
currently in the process of completing the application for nomination
for the remainder of the neighborhood to the National Register as well.
In 2005, with support from McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company, the
Norwood Neighborhood Association contracted with Auburn
University School of Architecture's Urban Studio to develop a Small
Town Plan for Norwood's residential and business districts.
To view that plan, click here.
History of Norwood excerpted from City of Birmingham's Nomination of the Norwood Boulevard Historic
District to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1912, B. B. Merriweather, civil engineer for the Birmingham
Realty Company surveyed and laid off 28 full and partial blocks
for development. The intricate plan called for the extension of
Birmingham's grid plan, combined with a serpentine boulevard
and a circular avenue. The officers at Birmingham Realty named
the “elite” subdivision for Stanley Norwood, a real estate man and
friend of Leslie Fullenweider, then president of Birmingham
Realty. Early in the development of the neighborhood, Birmingham
Realty published Norwood: The Placid Place, a sales pamphlet
extolling the virtues of their new “planned” neighborhood. To read
the pamphlet, click here.