Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST – UAB baseball stadium was once the site of a ‘melting pot’ of Birmingham immigrants [old photographs]

The Jerry D. Young Memorial Field which now serves as the UAB Blazers Baseball Team’s home field was once the location of Behrens Park which was renamed Jordan Park in 1924. The park was located at 840 12th Street South at University Boulevard and was a leading recreation area for the whole city of Birmingham.


Old timers gathered (photograph The Birmingham News-Age-Herald Feb. 2, 1949 by News Staff Writer Danny Danenberg)Oldtimers_talk_over_Jordan_Park_history Feb. 2, 1949 newspaper clipping The birmingham news age hearld

In 1949, some ‘old-timers’ who lived in the area of the park gathered and told about the park’s history in anticipation of the 73rd anniversary celebration directed by park supervisor Roberta Henderson. She was assisted by Mrs. Agnes Coughlin Henagan, Park Board playground supervisor and many others. Some of those who attended the gathering were C. J. Going, assistant superintendent of city schools; Roger Bite, attorney; the Busenlehner family; Herman Ploeger; George Cavalas; C. T. Rambow; Mrs. Joe Roberts; Miss Maggie Massard; the Mizerany family; Mrs. Joe Locasio; Mrs. Melina Fiorella and many others.

All recalled the dances held at the park. C. T. Rambow, who was 84 in 1949 stated that he met Miss Ella Houser, his future wife at one of the dances.

The history of the park dates back to 1876, when Henry Behrens bought a 20-acre farm from the Elyton Land Company for $50 an acre. He reserved five acres for a park and sold off the rest in lots to people who came to work in the rolling mills. The residents were of all nationalities, German, Irish, Danish, English, Italian, Syrians, all new immigrants to America.

20th street north, Birmingham, Alabama Prominent in the view is the Union Train Station (later the Louisville and Nashville Train Station) and the Metropolitan Hotel on the left and the Louisville and Nashville freight depot on the right.

This would have been the view of immigrants of downtown Birmingham

The photograph was made before the construction of the Woodward Building in 1903


All Immigrants stopped at the Metropolitan Hotel

Each one made their first stop was at the old Metropolitan Hotel and the manager sent them to Henry Behrens, who sold them a lot to build a house on.

A pavillion was built in the park in the early 1880s and band concerts and dances were held there. Benches, picnic tables, flower beds were added and there was even a bowling alley in the park.

Germans were the majority of first residents

The Germans were the majority of the first residents and they formed a club and held gay parties. Then the Greek residents became more numerous, followed by the Syrians and Italians.

A large ditch, fed by water from springs in the area, ran along the park edges in the early days. The ditch was used for baptisms for the churches and a swimming hold for the children. The park, first called Behrens Park, has always had a baseball diamond.

The park was rededicated Jordan Park in 1924 and named for Captain Mortimer Jordan, Sr., a young physician in Birmingham and one of the first heroes killed in World War I.

Mortimer Harvie Jordan, Jr ca. 1918 (Alabama State Archives)

Mortimer Harvie Jordan ca. 1918

Pageant story depicted the history of the park

Five hundred children took part in the pageant beneath a full moon on the outdoor stage on August 4, 1949 and more than 2,500 attended the event. The story depicted the history of the park from the time of the Indians through the time when people from various countries came to settle in the area. There were folk dances from the Germans, Greeks, Danes, Italians, Assyrians, Irish and the other nationalities.

Miss Sally Bakane, as queen, presided over the pageant with Gika Morgan as king. Princesses were Miss Shirley Mancus, representing Denmark; Miss Patricia Stevens, Ireland: Miss Katherine Jones, Greece; Miss Theresa Schilileci, Italy: Miss Gloria Mizeriani, Syria; and Miss Peggy Meggison, America.

Tree dedicated at the end of the festivities.

Toward the end of the festivities, a tree was dedicated by Mortimer Jordan, Jr. in honor of his father for whom the park was named. This was the repetition of a scene 25 years earlier when the park was officially named in his honor. Mrs. Charles J. Sharp of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who dedicated the first tree, also dedicated the 2nd tree.

The park was enlarged and its ball field and tennis courts were regraded by the Civil Works Administration (CVA) in 1933-34. They also cleared deadwood, trimmed trees and relocated drinking fountains at the time. However, “despite their efforts, a tree remained in the field, which helped Dickey Martin record an unassisted triple play while playing in the Birmingham Industrial League in 1939.”

I wonder if the tree was the one planted in the original dedication or in 1924 when it was rededicated.


  1. Newspaper clipping The Birmingham News-Age-Herald Feb. 2, 1949 by News Staff Writer Danny Danenberg
  2. Bham Wiki

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