Birmingham is a warm and inviting city. Wherever I went I was always met with gracious southern hospitality. My home for several days was The Tutwiler Hampton Inn in downtown Birmingham. When I arrived at the hotel a wonderful bag of treats was waiting for me, a gift from my hosts. The Tutwiler is a National Historic Landmark adorned with original marble and ornamental ceilings from 1914. The rooms are spacious and the staff is always ready to please. Since I was the first to arrive and had a few hours to myself, I began exploring the city on foot. Birmingham is an interesting mixture of historic buildings and new high rises. There is a lot of renovation and restoration taking place. On my walk, I saw some impressive historical buildings such as the Masonic Temple Building built in 1922 and designed by two black architects, one of whom was the first black graduate from M.I.T in 1892. Just across the street from the Tutwiler is the Linn-Henley Library built in 1927, once the central library for the city before a new library was built across the road. Today, the Linn-Henley Library contains all historical research sources, rare books, maps and is a center for genealogical research. Walking tours are available for Birmingham’s historic buildings.
Our first night in Birmingham we were treated to a sumptuous dinner at The Highlands Bar and Grill. Owned by chef Frank Stitt, a nine-time James Beard Foundation finalist, this French-inspired southern style restaurant opened its doors in 1982. Chef Stitt is an Alabama native who not only has an award-winning restaurant, he has trained and inspired many chefs that have gone on to open their own restaurants in the Birmingham area. As with most of the restaurants in Birmingham, Chef Stitt uses locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. In addition to selecting our meals from the menu, Chef Stitt presented us with many appetizers and side dishes to taste. The Stone Ground Baked Grits were drool worthy! It was a heavenly introduction to the cuisine that Birmingham has to offer. And we were beginning to understand why our hosts told us to pack “loose” clothing. For the next several days, we were treated to extra side dishes and samples at every meal!
In addition to Waffle Works, there are presently 16 other food stalls representing cuisine from around the globe. In the middle of the court is a large bar called The Louis Bar, serving craft cocktails, local beers and wine. This stop was quite a treat!
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the Negro Southern League Museum. The museum tells the history of African-American baseball in America through the eyes of Birmingham. The museum has an incredible collection dating back to the 1800s that include, uniforms, bats, trophies and a hologram of Satchel Paige. I loved the chandelier in the main entrance that is made out of old baseball bats! As tired as we were at this “end of the day” visit, we all re-energized and enjoyed the magic of the museum.
We made a few stops on our trip that one might not find in a tour book, but are part of the soul of Birmingham.
Joe Minter’s African Village in America is an amazing collection of “outside” folk art. These sculpture gardens adorn the entire yard of Joe’s home and beyond. His art is mostly made with welded metal, hand-painted biblical signage and other knickknacks. About 15 years ago God spoke to Joe and asked him to create a garden of memory. And he has been doing so ever since. Some of his works include a tribute to the children that died at Sandy Hook and a room size re-creation of the jail cell that held MLK. One never knows if Joe will come out to talk to visitors, but he and his wife greeted us and Joe gave us a tour. It was quite memorable.
I've added a few snippets of video in addition to the slideshow.