Days Gone By - stories from the past

Do you know how many people attended the first Iron Bowl game in 1893?

How many people attended the first Iron Bowl Game?

I have found two different accounts with widely contrasting numbers as to how many attended the 1st Iron Bowl game in Birmingham. One gives an estimate of 450 and another says there were 5000. I would love to know the correct number.

We do know that the game between the University of Alabama and Auburn took place Birmingham’s Lakeview Baseball Park on Feb. 22, 1893. That historic game saw Auburn walk away with a 32-22 victory. Little did the handful of football fans realize what would develop from the first encounter. The players were even treated to special meals at their hotels and most traveled by train to the game.

Birmingham view includes Lakeview Park

birmingham view - includes lakeview park

From the time of the series’ conception until a 6-6 tie in 1907, Auburn dominated, winning seven of 11 games.

The early years were highlighted by intense, hard-nosed football, promoting the traditional reasons the rivalry became so popular and important to football fans in this state. More than 100 years later, the game would become the state’s great divider.

Lakeview Park was located at the intersection of Highland and Clairmont Avenues

Lakeview Park was a park in the Lakeview suburb of Birmingham located at the intersection of Highland and Clairmont Avenues. The 43-acre park was laid out in 1884 by the Elyton Land Company around a man-made lake which was created by damming up springs in the area. Various events occurred in the park, including opera performances on an island in the lake. The park was accessible by the streetcar system that ran along Highland Avenue.800px-lakeview_park

One popular attraction at the park was the Lakeview Pavilion, which contained a swimming pool, skating rink, bowling alley, and dance floor. A hotel was built at the park in 1887, which was visited by Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. The Lakeview Theatre, a covered stage for open-air concerts and performances, opened in November 1890 with a performance by Mrs General Tom Thumb and her Japanese Troupe.

Lakeview Park was the center of many events

The Summer of 1891 featured a lavish performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H. M. S. Pinafore” staged on a replica ship floating in the lake, which was surrounded by electric lights. Later seasons fell short of that early high mark. The Alcazar Opera Company took the stage in 1895. Promoters advertised additional security for unescorted ladies during the1896 season headlined by Trilby O’Farrell. In 1897 the theater hosted the Albert Taylor Company and a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s Vitascope (invented two years earlier by Charles Jenkins and Thomas Armat, but marketed by the Edison Company). In 1901 the Elite Opera Company began performing at the park.lakeview_lake_650w

The park also was home the Lakeview Baseball Park which hosted a number of events. Arguably, the most important event that occurred at Lakeview Park was the first football game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University, which occurred on February 22, 1893. The next time the Iron Bowl was played in Birmingham was in 1902, after Lakeview Park closed.

Lakeview Park Alabama-Auburn football game

Auburn beat Alabama 32-22 on February 22, 1893, before five-thousand fans at Lakeview Park in Birmingham, in the first football game between the two schools.  R.T. Dorsey scored three touchdowns and Tom Daniels two for the Tigers.  This picture, taken during the first half by photographer John Horgan, Jr., shows Auburn in its ?flying wedge? formation.  The teams met a second time that year, on November 30 at Riverside Park in Montgomery, and Auburn won 40-16. (Auburn Univ. Digital Library)


lakeview football game

Side Note: Lakeview Lake, now on the Highland Park Golf Course, was the site of one of the most heinous murders in Birmingham history. Here the body of Mrs. Hawes was found. The so-called “Hawes Horrors” earned the Magic City unwanted national press. On December 8, 1888 the bodies of Emma Hawes and her daughter Irene were found bound in chains at the bottom of the lake. Richard Hawes, already in custody for the death of his wife, became the target of a lynch mob at the Jefferson County Jail.

Eventually, the hotel lost patrons as they went to visit the East Lake Park. The hotel closed and became the Southern Female Institute, which burned a year later. In 1900, the pavilion was torn down to build the Highland Park Golf Course, which remains at this site. The Lakeview entertainment district retains the name of the park in the area. A section of the former baseball field was preserved as a grassy corner outside the Compass Bank operations center, with a historical marker describing the first Iron Bowl there.AlabamaAuburn1893

Today, Lakeview Park is no longer there. But you can find a historical marker of the first Alabama vs. Auburn football game in front of a BBVA Compass administrative building.

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  1. […] football season. The team was led by head coach E. B. Beaumont and played their home games at Lakeview Park in Birmingham, […]

  2. Thomas J. Conboy

    I was there. Auburn cheated!

  3. […] in 1892. The first Iron Bowl Game between the University of Alabama and Auburn took place at Lakeview Park in Birmingham on February 22, 1893. Auburn walk away with a 32-22 […]

  4. Frank Ard

    In Birmingham on 7th st south a historic marker 1893 Alabama played auburn one of games if not the first game . Bank is there now

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      Yes, we noted that in the article with a picture of the marker

  5. Daniel Denmark

    I am sure these two old fossills Vern & Gary were there,

  6. […] and Auburn have met in the Iron Bowl for so many years that we may not realize that the two colleges refused to meet on the gridiron for […]

  7. Cindy Padgett

    I don’t know, but I do know I love my Auburn Tigers, and I BELIEVE!

  8. Tom Brickman

    Played at Avondale Springs Park

  9. Peggy Cross

    Compass bank operation center on 7th Ave and 32nd . First game. No clue on attendance

  10. Diane Paramore


  11. Alex Michaels

    Sounds like a good question to ask the Bryant Museum. Either Ken Gaddy or Taylor Watson would be good ones to ask

  12. Charles Hughes


  13. Joel Kimbrough

    Were you there Joe?!? Is this a trick question?

  14. Jerry Black

    Charles Woosley was there ask him..

  15. Joseph P. Walker III

    Alabama players William Walker quarterback was my great uncle , so too MP Mitchell Porter Walker , and Hugh Morrow a cousin

  16. Butch Smith

    The site is located at Clairmont ave.and 32nd st south.

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