Sunday, March 04, 2007

UPDATE: The J. W. McDonald House (c. 1925)

The McDonald house is a beauty on two lots (the corner lot is shaded and private). It is a cross- gabled bungalow with English Craftsman details. The construction is brick on a stuccoed brick foundation.
It features a full-facade, gabled porch with half-timbering and stucco in the gable face. There's a small 6-light window flanked by vents. Notice the blocks, pediment moulding and other details.
Most of the windows are original 6-over-1 sash. The original side porch has been enclosed in glass.
In 1911, the home's original owner founded J. W. McDonald Furniture Company in Bessemer. The company was located at 1816 3rd Avenue, North.
This wonderful home at 1711 Dartmouth Avenue is available at last! The 3-bedroom, 2-bath house was originally listed last and then taken off the market. Now it's back and only $95,900.
Several of members of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association reside on the street.
The listing agent is Jerry Morris Realty (205)481-1551. See the listing at

UPDATE: This home sold and the new owners moved in last weekend. Welcome to Bessemer!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

ENDANGERED LANDMARK: The Harmer House (c. 1888)

It's easy to ignore most of the homes along Arlington Avenue, east of 19th Street. Many are abandoned, a few are partially burned, and several sit on, or between, overgrown lots. It may be easy to do, but don't overlook these gems in the rough.
One of the most notable of these homes is the Harmer House at 2005 Arlington. This modest blue and white cottage rests in a tangle of overgrown weeds and once-loved garden plants run wild. The structure is nearly obscured by vegetation in the yard and empty corner lot.
Remarkably, this neglected beauty is one of the oldest remaining homes in Bessemer. The house and its neighbor at 2009 Arlington Avenue were two of the original cottages built in South Bessemer. While many original details of the house at 2009 are covered with vinyl siding, the Harmer's can still be seen.
The house is a cross-gabled ell cottage. The frame structure is built on a filled brick-pier foundation. The fill is an unusual mix of brick chips in heavy mortar. The front gable contains fishscale shingles near its top, with half-timbering and stucco below. It surmounts a cutaway bay with sunburst brackets and pendant knobs.
Windows are 1-over-1 sash and there is a single light over the front door. The porch is in the ell and has a hipped roof supported by wrought iron on brick piers.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Arlington School - Take 3

Keep your fingers crossed. Arlington School (1908) may be saved!
The community group B3 (Bring Bessemer Back) has submitted a $1.8 million plan to the Bessemer Board of Education. The group hopes to rehab the building as office space for non-profit groups and restore the theater for community use. Read the full Birmingham News article.
Arlington School was included in The Alabama Historical Commission's 2003 list of "Places in Peril." The following description comes from "Places in Peril" coverage in the Fall 2003 issue of Alabama Heritage magazine:
"A fine example of classical revival school building from the turn of the last century, the Arlington School, built in 1908, was Bessemer's first high school. Its most distinguishing features are the decorative brick and stone facade, interior sky-lighted basketball courts, and an auditorium in the form of a jewel box theatre with a raked floor, proscenium stage, and horseshoe balcony. Once a part of a thriving middle class neighborhood, the Arlington School was abandoned in the early 1980s. Now dilapidated and out of use, the school's state of disrepair is indicative of the decline in the surrounding neighborhood..."

Thankfully, the South Highlands neighborhood is turning around. Revitalizing the school building is essential to our continued success.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sweet House Restoration in B'ham News

Ongoing restoration work at the Henry W. Sweet House (1906) was covered in today's Birmingham News. David Nichols' family is making an investment of nearly $500,000 in the Arlington Avenue landmark. Read the full article at and learn more about the house at the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association site.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Keeton-Parsons House (1927)

Attention bungalow-lovers! The Keeton-Parsons House (1710 Dartmouth Avenue) is calling you.
This high-style Craftsman airplane bungalow was built in 1927. It has a classic porch, airy camelback, and all the great character you'd expect from this vintage (pantry, 9-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, built-in bookcases flanking the fireplace). Three bedrooms, two baths. Wiring, heating and AC are all recently updated.

Also, Dartmouth is a great address. Several Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association members are restoring nearby homes.

It's listed with Prudential South O'Town Realty for under $85K. See the listing and more photos.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Adams-Sullinger-Armbrester House (ca. 1900)

This historic home at 1918 Arlington Avenue has just been listed for sale with Century 21 Alliance Group.

1918 Arlington Avenue is the first home on the left.

I admit, this one is a hard sell. I'm including it because I have this idyllic postcard photo from around 1908. If you're familiar with Bessemer, you'll recognize that this is probably the most challenging block on Arlington Avenue (commercial at one end, commercial behind, vacant school across the street...) but it is also on the verge of change. The home is a half-block from the Henry Sweet house renovation (more on this huge investment in the South Highlands neighborhood later) and across the street from a beloved--if neglected--local landmark, Arlington School.

See a contemporary pic at (the listing mistakenly states that the home was built in 1930). I haven't seen the interior, but understand it needs some love. Maybe the postcard will help someone recognize its potential. : )

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Welcome to Historic South Highlands

Learn about our diverse community, historic preservation efforts, and real estate opportunities.

Find descriptions and photos of homes that are available for purchase, local preservation success stories, and before-and-after photos.

If you live in South Highlands and want to join this blog, please let us know with an email to

Bessemer History 101 from the Chamber of Commerce.

Homes on historic Minnesota Avenue.
Photo from the Historic American Engineering Record collection, Library of Congress.