Being recognized as the Magic City, there is never a doubt that Birmingham would have earned some recognitions over the past few years. But did you know that it was once touted to have the Heaviest Corner on Earth?

Early beginnings of the South’s Tallest Buildings

Four among the South’s tallest buildings were built at 20th Street and 1st Avenue in downtown Birmingham during the early 1900s. It has been proclaimed by a magazine as the “The Heaviest Corner on Earth.” A marker at the site stated that it was at the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham was just a small town which has two and three story buildings with a few church towers that reach into the skyline. When the city reached its full industrial boom in 1902 to 1912,  Birmingham became the largest city in the state. This was the time when four large buildings were constructed at the intersection of the city’s main streets. Namely the Woodward Building (now National Bank of Commerce), Brown Marx Building, The Empire Building, and John A. Hand Building.


Four Large Buildings in the City’s Main Streets


The Woodward Building constructed in 1902 on the southwest corner, was the city’s first steel-frame skyscraper. This is a perfect example of the Chicago school’s style of architecture which brought a dramatic change to the vertical scale of the existing Victorian city. Four years after, the 16-story Brown Marx Building rose on the northeast corner and in 1908 an addition more than doubled its size. Then in 1909, the Empire and John A. Hand Buildings completed the ‘Heaviest Corner on Earth.’ These beautiful buildings are sheathed in marble, limestone, and terra cotta. Both of these two large buildings embody the more ornamental neoclassical style. Along the cornice of the Empire Building (now Colonial Bank), ‘E’s’ indicate the Empire Improvement Company, which constructed the tower.


First Avenue North and 20th Street Intersection as the Heaviest Corner on Earth


Because of the impressive height and mass of the four large buildings constructed at the city’s main streets, the intersection of First Avenue North and 20th Street was proclaimed the heaviest corner on earth. Currently, these buildings represent the most significant grouping of early skyscrapers in the city.