The Historic Marker Program
Through its Historic Marker Program the Jefferson County Historical Commission works to identify and recognize houses, commercial and public buildings, churches, and sites of historic interest and integrity throughout Jefferson County. The Commission also works to encourage the preservation of these historically important places.
What types of buildings qualify for the historic marker?
Any building or site in the County that retains most of its historic appearance and integrity may qualify. A building does not have to be elaborate or famous or associated with historically significant people or events. Sites such as cemeteries or locations of now vanished buildings or events may also qualify.
How old does a building have to be, and what makes a building architecturally or historically significant?
The Jefferson County Historical Commission follows the age criterion of the National Register of Historic Places, i.e., a building or structure must be at least 50 years old to be eligible for a marker. As buildings from the post-World War II period have attained this age, reflecting modern construction techniques, styles and development patterns, the Commission has developed a new marker design for these properties.
A building or site may be eligible for marking regardless of age if it is associated with major historical figures or events, as for example the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham.
As noted above, a marked property does not have to be "significant" either architecturally or historically. We are of course interested in marking significant properties, but the markers are intended to (1) indicate integrity of historic appearance and character and (2) recognize the people, businesses or organizations that are historically associated with all Jefferson County buildings and sites.
Does a building have to be in its original condition to qualify for a marker?
Any old building will show some change over time, so we do not expect any property to be completely in its original condition. It should, however, retain its original shape and roofline, and enough of its original exterior materials to reflect its original character and appearance. Critical features in this regard are masonry or frame wall material, windows, porches, and decorative details such as millwork or bracketing.
Interior changes or additions to the rear are not considered in the marker evaluation unless they have an effect on the general view of the building that detracts from its historic character and appearance.
What information is included on the historic marker? How is that determined?
The marker includes the historic name of the building and the date of its construction, or as close thereto as can be determined by research or reliable anecdotal report (e.g., family records). For a site, the date should be that of the historically significant event that occurred there, or, in the case of cemeteries, the date of the earliest marked grave.
The historic name is that of the original occupant or, if the original occupant was there only a few years, the first long-term occupant of the building, whether a private house or a commercial or public building. If there are two, or even three, long-term occupancies over time, then both or all those names will be used if possible (that is, if they fit in the available space). The important thing is for the names to be those most historically associated with a building over time.
We do not include the name of the current owner except in cases where the current owner is already a long-term occupant and would thereby qualify under the above criterion. Under no circumstances are markers altered to reflect later owners.
It is important to remember that the historic marker is assigned to a building, not awarded to a person or family, so the marker stays with the building even if the occupants change.
Where can I find information to file an application?
The easiest way to get a complete application package is to download it from the Commission's website, jeffersonhistorical.org. You can also telephone the Commission office at (205) 592-6610 and request that a package be mailed to you.
In most cases, you can do all or most of your research at the main branch of the Birmingham Public Library. You may have to do some research in Probate Records at the County Courthouse if other sources of a building's construction date are not available. More detailed information about good research resources is provided on the accompanying page entitled "Where to Begin Your Research."
Who can I contact if I have questions about the application or my research?
You can call the Historical Commission office at 592-6610 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also direct questions regarding your research to the staff of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts at the Birmingham Public Library, (205) 226-3630. The staff in the Archives will not be able to do your research for you, but they will be happy to guide you through the process.
Please note that we cannot accept application documentation e-mailed to us or printed from your telephone pictures. The Library staff will make copies of appropriate documents at a very modest charge.