The Empire Building in downtown Birmingham, Alabama was constructed in 1909. After completion, the 16-story Classical Revival style skyscraper became the tallest building in Alabama. Birmingham View documented its construction monthly. Foundations were set by January 15, the first column of the top tier of structural steel was in place three months later. By May 15, the exterior terra cotta block had been mortared and anchored. By mid-June the building was almost finished. Teams of expert craftsmen, using limited machinery, hand carried the construction materials needed to build the tower. The exterior was covered in molded terra-cotta with pink granite columns showcasing the First Avenue entrance.
Four years later, the American Trust and Savings building, across the street, took the “tallest building in Alabama” title. These two buildings along with the Brown-Marx Tower and the John Hand Building were proclaimed the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” Today, it is still the most prominent corner in downtown Birmingham. In 1917, a crowd of 35,000 looked on as the Human Fly scaled the building’s exterior. The publicity stunt received national press coverage.
Originally, a drug store occupied the ground floor, with offices and businesses on the upper floors. The Empire Building was sold in 1964. After a year long remodel, the building reopened with City National Bank occupying the ground floor space.
In 1982, the Empire Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Dusty granite-lined walls and iron pendant chandeliers adorn the ground floor lobby.
The view looking up through the decaying lobby staircase.
The Empire Building is one of the most ornate historic buildings in Birmingham.
A terra-cotta cornice wraps around the entire top of the Empire building with a prominent E on display.
After sitting vacant for 3 years the Empire building was purchased by investors in 2012.
The $27 million renovation revamped the 107 year-old building into a five-star boutique hotel. The Elyton Hotel opened in 2017 with 117 guest rooms, a restaurant, and rooftop bar.