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THE GREAT TEMPLE OF TRAVEL: Remembering Birmingham Terminal Station

  • Thursday, January 19, 2023
  • 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

20th Century has rescheduled last week's Zoom program  to Thursday.

Join us Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. (CENTRAL) for a fascinating look at Birmingham (Ala.) Terminal Station. 

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 838 2810 1249
Passcode: 20thC
Dial in: 312-626-6799



by Marvin Clemons

Join us for a fascinating Zoom program on the second Thursday in January, a slight departure from our second Wednesday offerings this time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a magnificent railroad station was constructed in Birmingham, Alabama to serve the booming “Magic City.” Designed by Virginia architect Thornton Marye, the Byzantine and Beaux Arts structure, with its mosque-like dome and twin towers, was regarded as the finest railway station in the New South. Indeed, the London Architectural Society deemed Birmingham’s Terminal Station as one of the most impressive station designs in the world!

From its opening in 1909, Terminal Station hosted 52 daily passenger trains serving all points. Through two World Wars and the Great Depression, the station served Birmingham with a host of fine passenger trains with names like the “City of Miami,” the “Southerner,” and the “Silver Comet.”

After World War II, travelers increasingly abandoned trains for the convenience of affordable automobiles and airplanes. Following two decades of dwindling revenue and deferred maintenance, and with most of its trains gone, in 1969 the station was demolished to make way for a proposed urban development project which never came to fruition. The station’s destruction was a devastating loss to Birmingham’s architectural heritage, and its loss is often compared to the removal of New York’s Pennsylvania Station. 

As with Penn Station, the regrettable loss of Birmingham’s Terminal Station raised awareness of the importance of preserving the city’s surviving historical landmarks.

Even today, the rallying cry "Remember Terminal Station!" still mobilizes support for preserving such notable landmarks as the Alabama Theatre and Sloss Furnaces.

Although Terminal Station can never be replaced, its colorful history has been preserved by rail historian Marvin Clemons in the first and only history of the station. Through detailed text and scores of rare and previously unpublished images, his book “Great Temple of Travel: A Pictorial History of Birmingham Terminal Station” covers a century of passenger railroad history, from the arrival of the first railroads in 1871 to the last train to call at Terminal Station.

Narrated by the author, highlights from the book are featured in a Zoom slide presentation entitled, “A Journey to the Great Temple of Travel: Remembering Birmingham Terminal Station.” Seen are dozens of colorful images of the station, from its early construction through six decades of operation, until its closing and eventual removal. The hour-long presentation concludes with a tribute to the station’s legacy of historical preservation in the Birmingham District, and to the lost romance of rail travel.

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