Elyton Land Company was once in a building at 20th and Morris Avenue in Birmingham, Alabama
In the year 1870 several gentlemen, most of them connected in one way or another with the South and the North Alabama Railroad, which was then in course of construction from Montgomery to Decatur, Ala., conceived the idea of purchasing land around the intersection of the two railroads and forming a corporation for the purpose of building a town thereon. Negotiations were subsequently entered into with the owners of the farms east of Elyton, for the purchase of the property, which resulted in the transfer of the titles to 4,150 acres of land to Mr. Josiah Morris, of Montgomery, Alabama.
He agreed to pay $25 per acre, three-fourths in cash, and one-fourth in stock of the company proposed to be formed.
On the 20th day of December 1870, there was filed in the Probate court of Jefferson County the following declaration:
The State of Alabama, Jefferson· County-To the Probate Judge of said County: The undersigned respectfully represent unto your honor that they have formed an association for buying lands and selling lots with a view to the location, laying off and effecting the building of a city at or near Elyton, in said county, in which county the business is to be carried on, and are desirous of becoming incorporated. And for that purpose attach hereto a declaration in writing, as required by law. The undersigned apply for a charter and to be incorporated under the general incorporation law of the State of Alabama. JOSIAH MORRIS, J. R. POWELL, SAM TATE, CAMPBELL WALLACE, H. M. CALDWELL, BOLLING HALL, J. N. GILMER, B. P. WORTHINGTON, W. F. NABERS, WM. S. MUDD.
We, whose names are subscribed to this declaration, being desirous of forming an association for buying lands and selling lots with a view to the location, laying off and effecting the building of a city at or near the present town of Elyton, and of becoming incorporated, do hereby declare and make known for the purposes aforesaid as follows:
- That said association shall be known by the corporate name of the “Elyton Land Company,” and the object for which it is formed is, the buying lands and selling lots with the view to the location, laying off and effecting the building of a city, at or near the town of Elyton, in the County of Jefferson and State of Alabama.
- That the amount of the capital stock is $200,000, which is divided into 2,000 shares.
- That the names of the stockholders and the number of shares held by each are as follows:
- Josiah Morris, who holds 437 shares.
- James R. Powell, who holds 360 shares.
- Samuel Tate, who holds 360 shares.
- Campbell Wallace, who holds 120 shares.
- Henry M. Caldwell, who holds 120 shares.
- Bolling Hall, who holds 120 shares.
- James N. Gilmer, who holds 120 shares.
- Benjamin P. Worthington, who holds 133 shares.
- William F. Nabers, who holds 180 shares.
- William S. Mudd, who holds 180 shares.
On the 26th of January, 1871, the corporators held a meeting at the office of Josiah Morris & Co., in the city of Montgomery and organized the Elyton Land Company by the election of five directors. At a meeting of the directors held on the next day, Col. J. R. Powell was unanimously elected President of the Company, and the property previously purchased by Mr. Morris was formally transferred to the Company.
After the adjournment of the board of directors, the convention of stockholders reconvened and adopted by-laws, among which was the following: “The city to be built by the Elyton Land Company, near Elyton, in the County of Jefferson, State of Alabama shall be called ‘Birmingham’.” Immediately after his election to the Presidency, Colonel Powell commenced preparation for carrying out the purposes of the Company. He without delay proceeded to the scene of operations and opened an office in a small two-room house, which had been built by the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad for a section house. It was located on the south side of the railroad, immediately opposite where the lower end of the union passenger depot stood. Engineers were put to work surveying the property and laying it off into streets and avenues. The railroads having determined their location through the property, agreeing for the convenience of the proposed town to run their lines parallel to each other for a considerable distance through the property, the avenues were run parallel to the lines of the railroad tracks. This fact explains why the streets and avenues of Birmingham were not laid off corresponding to the points of the compass. In July 1871, Colonel Powell appointed Maj. W. J. Milner Secretary and Treasurer of the Company.
Looking north on 20th street north from the L & N. Station at Morris Ave.
Finding it impossible to build a city without building material, and in order that all parties needed to build houses, Colonel Powell made an arrangement with a contractor from Montgomery to make a large quantity of brick upon the land of the Company, agreeing to pay for them as fast as they will burn, and to supply them at cost to builders as they were needed. The surveys had progressed sufficiently, on the 1st day of June 1871, the office was opened for the sale of lots.
Elyton Land Company Building on the northeast corner of Morris Avenue and 20th Street North (O. V. Hunt photographer, Samford University Library)
“The Elyton Land Company floundered through slow growth and many setbacks during the 1870’s. By 1885, however, the company stood on solid financial ground and built an elaborate multi-use office building one block from the railroad tracks. From this three-story brick structure, the directors of Alabama’s most influential corporation supervised the operation of the city’s government, utilities, major banks, and real estate and commercial developments.1”
“Housing at subsequent cigar supply stores, building companies, real estate dealers, the Water Works, and an upstairs hotel, this landmark structure was razed in 1952 for a ground level parking lot”2 for the John A. Hand Building.”
- Downtown Birmingham Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide, 2nd edition, by Marjorie Longenecker White)
- History of the Elyton Land Company and Birmingham, Ala. by H. M. Caldwell, president of the Elyton Land Company, 1892
1 Downtown Birmingham Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide, 2nd edition, by Marjorie Longenecker White)
2 Downtown Birmingham Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide, 2nd edition, by Marjorie Longenecker White)
Tapestry of Love: Three Books In One – a historical fiction novel about the heritage of the Cottingham family who eventually settled in Bibb County, Alabama ca. 1818.
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