Ready to go on a leisurely drive while learning about Birmingham’s most beautiful buildings along the way? We mapped out the perfect route to see 14 historic buildings up close and personal. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the historic buildings in downtown Birmingham, it’s a great place to start learning the story behind a few of the places that make Magic City so iconic. Enjoy, and drive safely!
A Driving Tour of 14 Historic Birmingham Buildings
The Tutwiler Hotel
2021 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203
To start your tour, head to the beautiful Tutwiler Hotel. This building was originally established in 1914 as an apartment complex but was renovated in 1986 to become the historic hotel it is today. The Tutwiler is currently managed by Hilton and is home to Tutwiler Bar & Grill. There are also several interesting stories of hauntings in the Tutwiler. (Read this to add a layer of interest to this stop!)
RELATED: Birmingham Hotels With History
Cathedral Church of the Advent
2017 6th Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
The beautiful Cathedral Church of the Advent was built in 1883 after it was established as a parish in 1872. As one of the first churches built in the city of Birmingham, this building is an iconic figure that stands among trees and tall buildings on the busy corner of Sixth Avenue North and Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard.
Robert S. Vance Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
1800 5th Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
On Fifth Avenue, you’ll see a striking white marble building that sprawls the entire city block. Built in 1921 as the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama — and as a United States Postal Service location — this building now serves as the Robert S. Vance Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Its beautiful coloring and architecture are eye-catching next to the dark buildings surrounding it.
First United Methodist Church
518 19th Street N., Birmingham, AL 35203
As you drive down 19th Street North, you’ll see the beautiful architecture of First United Methodist Church. Built in 1891 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this timeless church — with its bright red doors — is a historical treasure to the city of Birmingham.
Alabama Power Company
600 18th Street N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Built in 1925, the Alabama Power Company‘s art deco-style building is the sixth tallest building in Birmingham. Additionally, to make the structure even taller, you’ll find a golden statue at the top. Standing at 23 feet tall and weighing approximately 4,000 pounds, Electra became a Birmingham icon when she was dedicated in 1926, and soon the Birmingham Post published a satire cartoon about the “romance” between Electra and Birmingham’s original iron man, Vulcan.
16th Street Baptist Church
1530 6th Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Built in 1911, 16th Street Baptist Church is remembered as the infamous location of a bombing that killed four young girls in 1963 during a civil rights protest. The church is still in use today and is now a key landmark in the Birmingham Civil Rights District.
1800 3rd Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
The oldest theater in Birmingham can be seen on Third Avenue North. Built in 1913 and opened in 1914 as a vaudeville theater, the Lyric Theatre welcomed greats like the Marx Brothers, the Keaton Family Acrobats, and Sophie Tucker. After years of booming success, the opening of the Alabama Theatre across the street led to the Lyric’s downfall, eventually closing its doors in 1958. After several campaigns and petitions to bring this theater back to its glory, the Lyric reopened its doors on January 14, 2016 (its 102nd birthday), revived and more beautiful than ever with an $11 million facelift.
RELATED: Lights Up on the Theatre District!
1817 3rd Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Across the street from the Lyric Theatre, you’ll see the stunning Alabama Theatre. Built in 1927, but most recently updated in 2020, the “Showplace of the South” has stood the test of time. Owned and built by Paramount Studios, this theater was used to showcase Paramount films for more than 50 years. In 1987, the theater was purchased by Birmingham Landmarks Inc. and fully restored in 1998. Each year, approximately 150,000 guests visit the Alabama Theatre to attend one of their hundreds of concerts, performances, movies and events.
120 19th Street N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Formerly known as the Pizitz Building, this gorgeous space that was once the flagship Pizitz department store is now known as The Pizitz — a food hall, apartment complex and office space. Built in 1923 and renovated in 2016, this beautiful building played a large role in the revitalization of downtown Birmingham and serves as an essential hub for Magic City locals.
Heaviest Corner on Earth
20th Street and 1st Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
During the Birmingham boom in the early 1900s, four of the tallest buildings in the country with structures made of steel were erected in the heart of the Magic City. The Woodward Building, now a bank, was built in 1902; followed by the Brown-Marx Building in 1906; the Empire building, now the Elyton Hotel, in 1909; and finally the American Trust and Savings Building, now the John A. Hand Building, in 1912. These buildings make up what has been deemed the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.”
2101 1st Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
This eye-catching building constructed in 1890 was designed by the Steiner Brothers Bank and is now occupied by a real estate group. Full of antique charm and design excellence, this unique architecture and design have remained on the corner of First Avenue North for 130 years. It’s a beautiful building that sometimes gets overlooked due to its proximity to the Heaviest Corner, but it still deserves recognition.
2101 2nd Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
Built in 1927, this beautiful terra cotta-clad two-story building is a timeless space now used for special events, including weddings and corporate gatherings. Originally built for Club Florentine, this building has seen several tenants, such as a bank, a restaurant, an alterations shop, a barbershop, and a nightclub. Purchased in 2008 by the owners of Corretti Catering, The Florentine underwent $2.5 million in renovations to become the beautiful special event space it is today.
2024 2nd Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
At 27 stories high, City Federal, formerly known as Jefferson County Savings Bank Building and the Comer Building, was the tallest skyscraper in the Southeast when it was constructed in 1913. The building was purchased in 2005 and underwent $20 million in renovations to transform the space into luxury condos, which it remains today. This beautiful building is a centerpiece to downtown Birmingham and boasts some of the best views of the Magic City from the top floor.
Cathedral of St. Paul
2120 3rd Avenue N., Birmingham, AL 35203
For your final stop, you’ll see The Cathedral of St. Paul, a gorgeous church in the heart of downtown Birmingham. This Victorian Gothic-style brick building, built in 1893, has stunning details from the inside out. The two-story cathedral on Third Avenue sprawls about half a block and includes a greenery-filled courtyard. It’s definitely a building we recommend seeing for yourself!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the history that earned Birmingham its nickname of “The Magic City.” Now get out there and explore!
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