Located among the southern fringes of the Appalachian Mountains, in the Ridge and Valley physiographic province, Birmingham is Alabama's largest city with a 2007 metro area population of over 1.1 million. It provides all the amenities of a cosmopolitan urban center without losing its southern hospitality and charm. If you are thinking of visiting or relocating to sweet Birmingham, Alabama, this article will provide you with some interesting facts, tidbits, and superlatives about the city, compiled from various sources.
Birmingham, Alabama (Paul McDaniel)
Birmingham was originally founded in its particular location (in 1871, after the Civil War) because it is the only place in the world where all the ingredients for making steel are present - coal, iron ore, limestone, and water - all within a ten-mile radius. This unique geography is what led Birmingham to be named after the industrial English city with the same name, and to become nicknamed "The Pittsburgh of the South." -Vulcan, the mythical god of metalworking, is the largest iron figure ever cast and is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty. The statue was Birmingham's entry in the 1904 World's Fair, where it won first place. -Birmingham's role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s placed it "at the center of the most significant domestic drama of the 20th century..." (Newsweek, Fall 2001).
Arts and Culture
The Birmingham Museum of Art houses the largest museum collection of Wedgwood outside England. Additionally, the Museum is the largest city-owned museum in the Southeast and houses the most comprehensive permanent collection of art and archaeology in the Southeast. -Birmingham is home to the nationally acclaimed Alabama Symphony and Alabama Ballet. -Birmingham has an overall ranking of ninth among its 32 peer communities in lifestyle amenities that attract the "Creative Class." (Rise Of The Creative Class). -The University of Alabama at Birmingham's Kirklin Clinic was designed by world-renowned architect I. M. Pei. -Birmingham's world-class musical talent has put the city in the national spotlight with two winners from the mega hit TV show "American Idol". Ruben Studdard won in 2003 and Taylor Hicks came home with top honors in 2006. In between, Birmingham's Bo Bice won first runner-up in the 2005 competition. -Birmingham's Festival of Arts is the oldest continuously operating arts festival in the nation.
Gourmet Magazine ranked Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham among the top five restaurants in the country (Gourmet Magazine, Fall 2001). -Bon Appetit Magazine named Birmingham's Hot & Hot Fish Club among the "Great Neighborhood Restaurants in the South" (Bon Appetit, Fall 2002).
Nature and Recreation
Birmingham's Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is larger than New York City's Central Park and is a five minute drive from downtown. It is the second largest urban nature preserve in the country after Portland's Forest Park in Oregon (Birmingham News, Spring 2003). -Birmingham's water quality received an "A" ranking (only 13 of 101 cities nationwide were as highly ranked and none higher; 7 cities failed including Houston, Las Vegas and Wichita) by a joint study of the Environmental Quality Institute at UNC, Rutgers University and the National Defense Institute, Men's Health, January, 2004.
Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the global Catholic television giant, is headquartered and broadcasts from its studios in Birmingham to millions of viewers around the world (Birmingham News, Winter 2002). -Southern Progress Corporation is headquartered in Birmingham and publishes many popular magazines such as Southern Living (the nation's most successful regional magazine), Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Health, Cottage Living, Sunset, Southern Accents, and is owner of Oxmoor House publishing company, which publishes and markets books across the country related to the areas of cooking, crafts, holidays, home improvement, and gardening. -EBSCO Industries, a widely diversified privately-owned corportation, a well-known provider of news and journal article databases, and the largest subscription agency in the world (providing subscriptions of over 300,000 journals to over 50,000 libraries worldwide), is headquartered in suburban Birmingham. -Books-a-Million, the third largest retail bookstore chain in the country, is headquartered in Birmingham.
Business and Industry
Birmingham took tenth place among U.S. cities on the annual list of Fortune 500 companies (Fortune Magazine, April 2001). -Birmingham is the second largest banking center in the southern half of the United States (after Charlotte, NC) and is the nation's seventh largest banking center ranked by assets. Additionally, Birmingham is the headquarter city for more of the nation's top 50 largest banking institutions than any U. S. city outside of New York City (Thomas Bank Directory 2003). -Metropolitan Birmingham ranks #15 in 2005 as one of "America's 50 Hottest Cities" ahead of Salt Lake City, Chicago, Miami, Memphis and Raleigh-Durham (Expansion Management magazine, January 2005). -Birmingham-Hoover MSA is the center of the nation's fastest growing automotive manufacturing region, which includes Mercedes Benz U.S. International (35 miles west of downtown Birmingham), Honda manufacturing of Alabama (40 miles east of downtown Birmingham) and Hyundai Motor manufacturing (85 miles south of downtown Birmingham). -Birmingham ranks as the eighth best place in the nation for entrepreneurs and Alabama stacks up as the 12th best among entrepreneur-friendly states, according to Gold Guide, a comprehensive list of statistics and rankings published by the National Policy Research Council. -Birmingham - Hoover is home to more than 400 technology companies and ranks among the top ten largest Southeastern technology centers (U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics, 2004). -Birmingham-Hoover MSA ranks among the top 40 out of a total of 318 U.S. metropolitan areas for the in-migration of Young, Single, College Educated Professionals (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003). -Saks, Inc., the nation's fourth largest department store chain, has its headquarters in Birmingham and operates 330 stores in 24 states. -Four Birmingham companies named to Forbes' list of the nation's largest private companies: Ebsco Industries (the highest Alabama company on the list). McWane Inc, O'Neal Steele and Brasfield & Gorrie (Forbes magazine, November, 2005). -Books-A-Million, the nation's third largest bookstore chain, is headquartered in Birmingham.
Healthcare and Education
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) drives the Birmingham metro economy. Its medical center ranked #3 in the nation (behind only Mayo Clinic and Mass. General) in overall quality of health care. (Source: The Best in Medicine). Meanwhile, Birmingham was rated #1 in the nation in Health by Ladies Home Journal in its issue of "The Best Cities," April, 2002. -According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Birmingham ranks fourth in the Southeast and 25th in the nation for medical and behavioral research allocations. Additionally, The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical School ranks third in the Southeast and 17th in the nation for medical and behavioral research allocations (National Institutes of Health 2002). -The University of Alabama at Birmingham's University Hospital is the world's top kidney transplant center (Birmingham News, Fall 2002). -Birmingham's "Southern Research Institute discovered six of the FDA's 10 approved cancer drugs - and there's more in the pipeline" (Rhonda Jung, Director of Public Relations in an article in Birmingham Business Journal, April 4, 2006). -In a ranking of the top 1,000 high schools nationwide, Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (with 325 students) was named the top public high school in the nation. The ranking was based on the number of students who took Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in 2004, divided by the number of seniors (Newsweek Magazine, May 7, 2005). -Samford University was ranked the 3rd best university in the South in the U.S. News & World Report 2006 rankings of America's best colleges. Samford has been ranked in the top 10 for 16 consecutive years.
Alabama ranks number three in the nation in most runners per capita (Runner's World magazine, November 2001). -Birmingham is home to the nation's oldest baseball park, Rickwood Field, which opened in 1910 and hosted baseball greats such as Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. -Birmingham is ranked #1 as host city for the annual PGA Senior Golf Tour (Sports Illustrated, 2001). -With the opening of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail throughout the state, Alabama was called "one of America's top 10 golf destinations" (USA Today).