One of neatest cities in America in Jefferson County

John Hardin
John Hardin
Barry Smith
Barry Smith

Today’s guest columnists are John Hardin and Barry Smith.

It’s really quite unique!

Jefferson County is home to one of the neatest cities in America–a Mayberry-like town that enjoys incredible diversity and embraces that diversity.

Diverse, yet has one of the best, if not the best, school system in Alabama.

A community where homes fly off the market for over-market prices, and sidewalk-lined city streets are crowded with runners, bikers, and families walking to local restaurants and shops.

If you haven’t guessed it, we’re talking about Homewood.

Homewood has a rich history as one of the original over-the-mountain communities with its historic homes and neighborhoods, hidden cemeteries, and former farmsteads. But the City has always had a foot in the future leading the way as a diverse, inclusive community.

Incorporated in 1926, Homewood was formed through the combination of Edgewood, Grove Park, and the thriving African-American enclave of Rosedale. Hollywood joined three years later in 1929, and Oak Grove (now West Homewood) followed in 1955. With a small-town feel that some have described as Mayberry-like, with big city amenities, and a location making it convenient to downtown Birmingham, Homewood has a whole lot that makes it special.

Homewood School System best in state

Established in 1970, Homewood City Schools—including Edgewood Elementary School, Hall-Kent Elementary School, Shades Cahaba Elementary School, Homewood Middle School, and Homewood High School—is a major driver in the city’s success.

The system has long topped lists of the state’s best with This year, name Homewood as the top system in the state.

In recent years, the city partnered with the schools on a $55-million construction and expansion project that touched every school in the system and included a wholesale renovation of the high school. Recognizing the systems’ value in the continued growth of Homewood, the city annually contributes tens of millions of dollars to support the schools. The great Homewood schools also help drive a thriving residential market.

Incredible amenities

In addition to the school construction, Homewood also invested $55 million in new park facilities including construction of a new pool, new gymnasium, new multiuse turf mega-field, and renovated sports fields at West Homewood Park. The city offers numerous recreational sports activities, from basketball and baseball leagues to flag football to swim teams to cheerleading. The Homewood Public Library, which draws people from all over the metro area, also recently underwent an expansion and construction project to enhance the services provided by the Four-Star rated library.

One of the safest cities in Alabama

Realizing that the people who work for the city have a big part in the city’s success, we are thankful for our over 500 outstanding city employees who help make Homewood a special place. The Homewood Police Department and Homewood Fire Department, led by Police Chief Tim Ross and Fire Chief Nick Hill, work tirelessly to make Homewood one of the safest cities around.

The city also invested in a new, state-of-the art public safety facility that opened last year in West Homewood.

Financially strong

The City Council, made up of 11 people who care deeply about Homewood, are dedicated to supporting employees and residents with strong fiscal policies to ensure the city’s long-term success. Different from many cities our size, we have a mid-year financial review to confirm we are on the right track, and we maintain a rainy-day fund with a current balance in excess of $11 million.

Homewood is also home to a diverse business community with everything from small mom-and-pop shops to industry to manufacturing and everything in between. With a plethora of shopping, dining, and a unique and central downtown, Homewood has become a destination for people from across the metro area and beyond.

Homewood truly has something for everyone, and that makes Homewood something to celebrate.

John Hardin is a Homewood City Councilor representing Ward 5. In his “other” job, John has been in the commercial real estate business in Birmingham for 30 years.

Barry Smith is a Homewood City Councilor representing Ward 4. In her “other” job, Barry has been in the publishing industry for 25 years.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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13 thoughts on “One of neatest cities in America in Jefferson County”

  1. Homewood is a nice area but none of the houses in Homewood are historic. Just because they are old does not make them historic.

    1. I believe there are quite a few houses in Homewood that would technically according to the national historic preservation guidelines qualify as historic when they are over 75 years old. After all, Homewood itself is is 95 years old. It could not have been a city for 20 years with no houses, and how many are gone? The neighborhoods that joined, like Edgewood also included houses before they joined Homewood. Check that to be sure, and don’t write something like that unless you can prove it. Please! Driving through you will notice plaques designating that they are on historic buildings.

      1. But do they deserve to be called historic? Has anything of historical importance happened at these houses? The National Register of Historic Places could be wrong.

    2. Homewood has three National Park Service Historic Districts.
      Rosedale Historic District is on the west side of 18th Street. Rosedale Park Historic District is on the east side of 18th District. The Hollywood Historic District includes the original 1920s suburb. The National Park Srvice has rigorous standards for designation of these districts and each includes many homes that they consider as contributing to the districts. The Bridges home and gardens, known locally as the “pink house” is certainly historic and represents a long past era both in its period architecture and in its connections to local and national arts and literature.

      1. What happens in houses may not be historic to you, but certainly they are to the descendants of those who lived in them. Furthermore, they are also historic because of the quality of their representation of the design of the period in which they were built. These are actually quite unique and of excellent quality for their time That too, do not forget, is history. That is Hollywood. Rosedale is a significant part of our cultural history.

        I do not mean to be so ‘counter nasty’ here, but I know this for two reasons. I have taught architecture history, and I have served on a State Board of Historic Preservation that was assigned the task of reviewing and making recommendations to the National Board for buildings and districts that apply for that designation. Not all get through for one reason or another. Sometimes it is only because they have not presented a clear enough record.
        Much of this work is done by people who are actually serving as paid professionals to do the proper job.

        Or if you don’t like it, the only way to change it is to reach your political friends and try to get them to change the legislation. I do not recommend that effort because I think it would be very hard to get through that wall, After all Alabama, being very intelligent, has a law that provides a significant tax benefit to those who make use of historic buildings and it is really significant in helping the city of Birmingham and metro Birmingham/Hoover grow at less cost and very nicely. After all when you keep your history visible you also keep the identity of your self, your home and your city. I truly hope this helps you and others understand the value of Historic Preservation.

        It is truly a strong and bright path to COMEBACK BIRMINGHAM. my thanks to John and Barry for opening this really good subject. I am thankful for the opportunity to give my thoughts.

  2. Nice real estate ad and PR piece on Homewood…not transparent, at all…right…

    I lived, raised kids, worked, and attended church in Homewood’s Edgewood. Mayberry it is NOT. Mayberry was not full of yuppies, hipsters, and young Brookies buying their starter home so they can make enough money to move back to “the Brook.”

    My 75 year old house, with a lots barely wide enough for a one car drive, no garage, a 15 degree yard slope, no basement, three tiny closets, and asbestos shingles was purchased for $36K, sold five years later for $65K, and was on the market a few years ago for $450,000 with a few renovations. The realtors and commercial developers have “created” a never-ending cash cow to serve upwardly-mobile young marrieds to hang around for a few years before they move on. Mayberry it ain’t.

    1. I think what they were trying to say is that Homewood has the friendliness of Mayberry. But I remember one episode of the Andy Griffith Show in which the deputy gives a jail inmate construction tools to rehabilitate the in,ate and the inmate uses them to escape the jail. Hopefully Homewood PD is more competent. So the Mayberry comparison is both good and bad.

      As for the lack of space on the lot of your home, what Homewood homes lack in sizes they make up for in location. Excellent school district, good shopping choices, very convenient to downtown Birmingham which still offers great entertainment options.

    2. Karl, this is very interesting. You remind me that the first house my parents lived in having moved out of a Highland Park apartment or two was 114 Edgewood Boulevard. It still stands, now with an historic marker at its front door. It is very quaint, and a pleasant starter home. And don’t forget the old streetcar line that would take anyone from the center of Downtown Birmingham out to the edge of the Lake. That was long before I was born, but I have heard the family stories. I know my father would go to his office with DuPont Thompson as a young lawyer, recently graduated from Harvard Law School. Eventually he became the ‘Attorney General’ for the Southern District of US Steel (TCI when he and Mr. Thompson had that as their major client.) Well for me that is quite historic! And I enjoy sharing it.

  3. Just wondering here. Are the suburban communities surrounding Birmingham feeling some heat to cooperate with each other—and with Birmingham itself? Isn’t that one of Comeback Town’s unspoken missions? Are those communities, especially the OTM ones, resisting that cooperation? Does that explain why two Homewood city councilors feel the need to publish a piece that praises the city’s well-known positive attributes? (It also stands in contrast to the issues raised in the preceding post and comments, but that’s another matter.) I’m an Alabama native, living for 27 years in Vestavia Hills and working in the City, from1987-2014. We live in Nashville now, and though we revisit family in Forest Park regularly, I’m not privy to the political rumors and pressures that aren’t on the Internet. So I follow this blog as a way to keep up with the Magic City. Here in Music City, with its metropolitan form of government encompassing all of Davidson County, there are areas that nevertheless enjoy some political independence and certainly feel local pride. Enormously wealthy Belle Meade comes to mind, though middle class neighborhoods such as Berry Hill, Bellevue, and East Nashville, as well as lower income North Nashville, certainly have a strong sense of identity. But I don’t think the local leaders in those areas would ever resist cooperation on important citywide issues or refrain from promoting the city as a whole. They’re all linked together through the Metro Council and see the economic and other benefits their interconnections provide. I hope I’m misreading the intent of this CT post.

    1. Robert, sounds like you have great perspective on our Birmingham region and Nashville. Actually, the OTM communities are taking a leading role in regional efforts. As you probably read in ComebackTown, the Mayors Association are working as a group to strategically move our region forward. Mayor Stuart Welch of Mountain Brook lead the effort. As you know I’m a big proponent of county/city government like Nashville, but that is going to happen here any time soon. However we’re making great progress working together and it is paying off. BTW, I asked the city counsellors who wrote this piece to do so. I think the story of Homewood’s schools being diversified and top ranked should be told.

    2. “…why two Homewood city councilors feel the need to publish a piece that praises the city’s well-known positive attributes?”

      Yeah, a real estate ad piece as I pointed out.

      I live in Pelham and I can quote you similar advantages to our community…some of them vastly superior to Homewood and validated by suburban research statistics. Great integrated city school system and sports, Oak Mountain State Park, golf and tennis clubs, new city parks and recreation center, shopping, breweries, scuba center, entertainment, easy Interstate access to Alabaster, Hoover, and Summit malls, And REASONABLE real estate prices and available, and limited multiple-family complexes. Is it the hipster/yuppie haven of Homewood and Crestline? No…but I consider that a major plus.

      Now should all this community wealth be part of an integrated Birmingham/Jefferson/Shelby megalopolis? I’ll leave that to another generation…I’m too old to make a difference now.

    3. Even as part of a whole and greater city, they would always be their own neighborhoods.

      I am very much in agreement that the idea of bringing all of these ‘extra’ cities together into one is a grand and valuable vision. When the local neighborhood associations were gaining wide national renown for being such a great idea, at the time Washington, D.C. being the only other city in this entire country to have such a thing. It set in place a pattern by which the city could incorporate more suburban communities without losing their say or their identity. That is the true kind of thinking that needs to move forward as a way to advance Birmingham. The separations are more in need of riddance than continuation. I am with you, Robert, for promoting it.

      And add to that the inclusion of more ‘home rule’ for this greater city, whose citizens know better than state legislators what can benefit the city and as a result, the state of Alabama as well. Let’s go for it! Thank you

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