1873 In the summertime, a large cholera outbreak in the Birmingham area took the lives of 128 residents; the resulting panic drove hordes of families away from the Jones Valley area reducing the population from 4,000 to about 2,000. Many families began to view the Shades Valley area as a healthy, attractive alternative to living close to the smoke, grime and soot of the Birmingham industrial area. The increase of interest in land "over the mountain" resulted in the creation of new land companies and entreprenurial ventures (Summe, 13).
1886 The Clifton Land Company, operated by Benjamin F. Roden, began to survey and plot land to create housing for Jones Valley buyers. However, the lack of transportation over the treacherously steep mountain drove the necessary creation of a new form of travel across the slope.
1889 The Clifton Land Company opens the Red Mountain Railroad Line, which took a complex and dangerous route that "required two switchbacks to get the cars down the south slope" (Armes, 11). Very few individuals wanted to risk the trek, and in September of this year, the Clifton Land Company reorganized as the South Birmingham Land Company and chose to sell lots to African-Americans. With the low prices (due to the lack of transportation, heavily wooded area and sloping terrain), many could afford plots of land and owned their own homes.
1890 Alabama Penny Savings Bank, owned and operated by W. R. Pettiford, is established as one of the "largest African-American owned financial institutions in the United States," and most likely provided loans and mortgages to African-American buyers (Summe, 16). Additionally, in this year Theodore Smith began purchasing property in the area. Many believe that he named the area "Rosedale Park" himself, and stories of his sprawling rose garden abounded in Birmingham area legend and lore.
1897 African-American residents of "Rosedale Park" founded Union Baptist Church on Tenth Street, holding regular Sunday services, prayer gatherings and Sunday school.
1898 In the City Directory of this year, Rosedale Public School is listed under "colored schools" (Summe, 18).
1899 Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) construct their first building. Black Rosedale residents hold occupations ranging from "manual laboreres and household workers to craftsmen, merchants and teachers" (Summe, 19).
1911 Edgewood Electric Rail Line is opened and goes directly through Rosedale, expanding transportation opportunities and opening up Shades Valley to increased development.
1914-1918 Numerous individuals from Rosedale fight in World War One.
1923 Ku Klux Klan holds "all-day festivities" at the Edgewood Lake, only a few miles from Rosedale Park. The event becomes "one of the largest Klan gatherings ever" with large crowds, aerial performances, barbecue and Klan delegations from six states (Summe, 44-45). Spectators were invited to watch the initiation ceremony that night from afar, which was concluded with red, white and blue fireworks.
1926 Bishop Martienne Montgomery becomes principal of the Rosedale School and will remain so until 1967.
1926 Establishment of the city of Homewood, combined Edgewood, Grove Park and Rosedale. Movement for this incorporation led by Charles S. Rice, the "father of Homewood."
1930s Several fires cause the Rosedale School to burn down. When the school is under repair, students attended class in the Rosedale Churches: Bethel AME, Friendship Baptist Church and Union Baptist Church.
1939 After two fires, Rosedale deeds the school to the Jefferson County Board of Education.
1944 A new school, made of stone, is constructed by the Works Progress Administration. The building still stands today.
1960-1961 The Southgate Corporation proposes a plan to the Homewood City Council seeking land in Rosedale to develop for profit; their ultimate hope was to "condemn certain private homes" as slums and innapropriate living facilities. Despite immense dismissal of the project at first, a revised proposal was approved after "meetings with the residents went positively" (Summe, 219). However, some see this event as the first move to commercialize the Rosedale neighborhood.
1963 A "racially-motivated" bombing occurs on Central Avenue in Rosedale in the same month as the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing; causes minor property damage and stokes fears of continued racial violence within the community (Summe, 218).
1966 Spring Park is dedicated in the summer by the city of Homewood, a swimming pool is constructed and offers swim classes. Spring Park had long been a recreational spot for Rosedale residents as a natural spring for swimming, some residents even mention baptisms occurring in the water there.
1968 Homewood City Council gains first African-American member, Afton M. Lee Senior, longtime Rosedale resident and community leader.
1969 Rosedale School is closed, students transferred to other schools within the newly integrated Jefferson County School System. After full integration, Homewood school's student population "was 90 percent white and 10 percent black" (Summe, 230).
1970s Rosedale pushes for revitalization, renovation and preservation. In 1978, Jefferson County Development Consortium pilots a housing conservation project within Rosedale. Streets, gutters, and curbs are improved by city of Homewood.
1983 Rosedale resident Julia Vann Finley (a prominent officer of the Rosedale Civic League) appears before Homewood City Council in protest of plans regarding zoning laws in favor of commercialization. She also remarked upon the council's failure to provide a "bridge across Eighteenth Street" to reconnect the two halves of Rosedale (split by highway) as previously proposed and promised (Summe 236). Homewood City Council ignored her requests to maintain residential areas around Spring Park, and as of 2019, no bridge has connected the two halves of Rosedale.
1984 Adrienne Lee elected to city council (daughter-in-law of Afton M. Lee Senior).
1985 Rosedale Community Development Corporation is founded to preserve the historic Rosedale Park community.
1988 Led by the Rosedale Community Development Corporation, two Habitat for Humanities houses are built in Rosedale as the first ones to be constructed in Birmingham. Land donated by the Lee family.
1980s- 2000s Rosedale struggles to maintain its residential space against developers, commercialization and gentrification.
2019 Heart of Homewood Plan is developed, proposing re-zoning and revitalization of Downtown Homewood. The website claims that "The Heart of Homewood Plan will provide a road map to guide future growth and development in the heart of the city for the next 10-15 years."
1. Armes, Ethel. The Story of Coal & Iron in Alabama. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 2011 edition. Originally published 1910.
2. Summe, Sheryl Spradling. Homewood: The Life of a City. Homewood, Alabama: Friends of the Homewood Public Library, 2001.
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