Arlington High School, located at the corner of Arlington Avenue and 19th Street, was built in 1908. The school was the City of Bessemer’s first high school and designed by William E. Benns. The three-story Classical Revival-style building had eight classrooms, each with 13-foot ceilings and plenty of windows. Each class could hold 45 students with desks arranged so that natural light would pass over the student’s left shoulder. The Bessemer Board of Education and Superintendent’s offices were on the main floor near the front entrance of Arlington School. A chemistry laboratory and library were on the second floor along with more classrooms. In the basement were restrooms for both sexes, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a boiler room.
There were maple floors throughout the building, but the highlight of Arlington School was the auditorium. The raked wooden floor, horseshoe-shaped balcony, and proscenium stage were notable features.
Bessemer City Schools closed Arlington School in 1986 after converting it into an elementary school. By 2003, the building was listed on the Alabama Historical Commission’s list of Places in Peril. Several attempts were made to repurpose the building in the following years, but nothing was ever successful.
In 2008, the Bessemer School Board declared Arlington School a surplus building, opening the chance for it to be sold. After a tour of the building in August 2008, the City of Bessemer deemed the building unsafe. They told the Bessemer School Board it must be brought up to code before being repurposed or sold.
In 2012, the Bessemer School Board began seeking bids to demolish Arlington School. The property was purchased by contractor Ezra Hopson in 2013, who was the only person to bid on the building. He salvaged parts of the building before beginning demolition in 2014.
Founded in 1871 after the Civil War, Birmingham rapidly grew as an industrial enterprise due to the abundance of the three raw materials used in making steel–iron ore, coal, and limestone. Birmingham’s rapid growth was due to the booming iron and steel industries giving it the nickname “Magic City” and “Pittsburgh of the South.” The city was named after Birmingham, England, as a nod to the major industrial powerhouse. The iron and steel industries began to dry up by the early 1970s, leaving behind dozens of abandoned structures that now dot the city’s landscape. In the last several years, Birmingham has begun to experience a rebirth. Money has been invested in reconstructing the historic downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district. In Abandoned Birmingham, photographer Leland Kent gives the reader an in-depth look at the forgotten buildings and factories throughout the city. $24.99 retail price. Signed and includes shipping.