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The seat of Jefferson County, Birmingham holds the title of most populous city as far as the U.S. goes. Its populace as of 2010 was 212,237 according to the United States Census, with nearly one fourth of Alabama’s populace being the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area (roughly 1,128,047).
In 1871, after the Civil War and during the Reconstruction era, Birmingham was founded through the uniting of three farm towns - the most notable being Elyton. Aptly named Birmingham after Birmingham, England, one of the United Kingdom’s largest and most industrialized cities at the time - it was developed as an economic and industrial mecca based on the emerging iron, steel, and railway transportation industries. The founders of Birmingham were of English lineage, and it was focused on serving as a city where nonunion, cheap, immigrant work (mostly Italian and Irish), as well as African-American employment from countryside Alabama, would be found to work the cities steel mills, blast furnaces, and railway needs. These edges gave Birmingham advantage when compared to the rest of the unionized cities of the Northeast and Midwest.
Birmingham earned several nicknames due to its economic success during the late 1800’s through to 1920: it was known as “The Magic City” and “The Pittsburgh of the South” due its service as the main industrial mecca to the southern United States. Boasting growth in the production of iron and steel, the major needs of railroads, railroad cars, rails, and rail spikes, many of the railways of the deep south find their origin in Birmingham, as well as Atlanta. During the 1950s the economic centralization began to spread, moving into modern industries such as banking, transportation, electric power, medical care, college education, insurance, and telecommunications. Today Birmingham is among the largest banking capitals of the United States - and still serves as an important hub of business among major cities in the South east.
Flag of Birmingham, Alabama
Towards higher education, Birmingham houses the prestigious University of Alabama School of Medicine (previously the Medical College of Alabama) as well as the Alabama School of Dentistry as of 1947. 1969 marked the first year of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, serving as one third of the major collegiate campuses of the University of Alabama system. The three private institutions include Miles College, Samford University, and Birmingham-Southern College. Far as medical colleges, the area of Birmingham teaches nursing, medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, law, physical therapy, and engineering. Three of the five law schools in Alabama are housed in Birmingham: the cumberland School of Law, Miles Law School, as well as the Birmingham School of Law. The city is also the central location of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Southeastern Conference - a top college athlete conference in the U.S.
Located within Jones Valley, Birmingham is neighbored by flanking mountain ridges (made up by the Appalachian Mountains) on the northeast and southwest ends. A formed valley is sloped by Village Creek and Valley Creek that cascade naturally towards the Black Warrior River. A railroad corridor cuts the valley in two, and is the source of many of the city’s formative manufacturing years.
To the immediate south of downtown Birmingham rests Red Mountain. A ridge recognized today by many radio and television towers that use its height to broadcast across the valleys. Forming the “Over the Mountain” stretch are Shades Mountain and Shades Valley, which utilize the ridge as a shield from pollution, smog, and the coarseness of an industrialized city. It is here that Birmingham’s more prosperous suburbs are housed: namely Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook, and Vestavia Hills. Further south of Shades Valley, Cahaba River basin is found. The basin boasts a diverse ecosystem within the river, one of the most in the entire United States.