Empire Building

Constructed in 1909, the Empire Building is one of Birmingham’s oldest skyscrapers and one of the most ornate buildings downtown. After completion, the 16-story Classical Revival skyscraper became Alabama’s tallest building. A local paper, Birmingham View, documented its construction monthly. Foundations were set by January, and the first column of the top tier of structural steel was in place three months later. By May 1909, the exterior terra cotta block had been mortared and anchored.

By June 1909, the building was almost finished. Teams of expert craftsmen, using limited machinery, hand-carried the construction materials needed to build the tower. The exterior of the building is covered in a 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 as the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” Today, it remains the most prominent corner in downtown Birmingham.

In 1964, the Empire Building was sold. After a remodel, the building reopened with City National Bank occupying the ground floor the following year. Originally, a drug store occupied the ground floor, with offices and businesses on the upper floors.  In 1982, the Empire Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. After sitting vacant for three years the Empire building was purchased by investors in 2012. A $27 million renovation revamped the 107-year-old building into a five-star boutique Marriot hotel. The Elyton Hotel opened in 2017 with 111 guest rooms, 6 suites, a restaurant, and a rooftop bar.


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You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. For more amazing, abandoned locations from across Birmingham as well as Alabama, check out my photography books Abandoned Birmingham and Abandoned Alabama: Exploring the Heart of Dixie.


  1. Gorgeous architecture. The craftsmanship in this building is amazing….they surely don’t make them like this anymore. Would love to see it after the renovation! By the way…love your site and your instagram! Keep it up!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As skyscrapers go, this one’s a beauty, strange thin shape and the ornate top floors. The artistic details are striking. Though you do “abandoned” it’ll be interesting if you took pictures once it’s renovated 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Are the upper floors empty atm? Gorgeous building, I hope your work capturing this level of quality craftsmanship in Birmingham helps make sure we preserve, re-invigorate with life these beautiful buildings that can not be built again in America. The woman in the moon, Thank you for that shot!!!


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