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The Neighbors: 1936

March 1936. "Middle class houses of the town. Birmingham, Alabama." Nitrate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

March 1936. "Middle class houses of the town. Birmingham, Alabama." Nitrate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Baker grave in picture

Going from Norwood_nomad's comment, I found the coordinates for Baker grave in the photo on Find a Grave here 33.5225503,-86.8315599.

Birmingham cemetery

I took locating this photograph as a challenge, and I believe I have it placed.
I was a child long ago in Birmingham also, although I never saw this particular cemetery.
I think the photograph was taken in Knesses Israel Cemetery at about the center of the cemetery, Latitude: 33.522351 and Longitude: -86.831288 with the camera pointing to the northeast. This is consistent with the post George Adams made.
The key to identifying it was the church at the top of the hill on the left side of the photograph with the patched tin roof and the twin towers. I believe that to be Old Sardis Baptist Church located at 1240 4th St N., now with the top of the southern tower removed, the roof's peak lowered, and its exterior walls veneered with red brick. From what I can see with Google Satellite and Streetview, it's the only recognizable structure in the picture still remaining, and most of the lots where houses are shown then now have trees or underbrush covering them.

Birmingham Photo

I grew up in Birmingham and my father who also grew up there loved to take my brother and I to all sorts of ineresting places that most people didn't know about. The picture is of the original Jewish cemetary which is somewhere around Birmingham Southern College and the current interchange of I-65 and I 59/20. I was too young to remember exactily the location but since I had never seen anything like the cemetary I never forgot it.

I'm Guessing Pratt City

I'm thinking this could have been around Irish Hill (now Dugan Avenue) in the Pratt City section of Birmingham.

Somewhere in Birmingham

I live in Birmingham and I believe that this picture was taken by the airport.

Es Verdad

I thought Paco's comment was beautiful, either in Spanish or in English translation. Anyone can easily obtain Spanish to English translation on the Internet.

Press uno por English

Uppa you ess!

[Dear Norm: Anyone is welcome to submit a comment here regardless of the language they speak. Civility and good manners are a requirement, however. - Dave]

Hilly Birmingham

I live in Birmingham. Like much of northern Alabama, it's quite hilly. The city sits in a valley between Red Mountain and Shades Mountain. There are lots of old neighborhoods built on the slopes of one hill or another. This neighborhood could have been on the North Side of downtown, judging by the houses and the cemetery on the slope. Some of our city's most interesting homes sit precariously on the side of Red Mountain.


Los porches de las casas miran, vigilantes, hacia el cementerio.
Entre éste y las casas se está realizando una ampliación en la que algunos, previsores, han empezado a construir su tumba, aún más cerca de las casas.
...gracias, SHORPY.

Moline, IL

This picture reminds me of my grandma's house in Moline IL! Her basement was built into the side of a hill with two floors above. The house was torn down in the late 80's. Looking at the lot today, no one would suspect that a house ever sat there. Thanks for the memory Shorpy!

Birmingham Plots

I grew up in Birmingham. Neighborhoods like this have been a victim of urban blight and many small frame homes like these have been torn down.

Construction like this was common throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana -- cheap and allows maximum circulation for the summer months. My last home in Jackson, Mississippi, dates from 1915 and the foundation is exactly the same as these houses, albeit on not as steep of a grade.

Fieldstone walls and houses are very common in the Birmingham area, as are terraced cemeteries. I wish I could identify this one, sadly the only last name visible is a very common one. If anyone is able to figure out where this is I'll ask my father to take a photo. It looks like a white cemetery in the foreground and the unlandscaped plot behind it is more than likely a black graveyard. Burial grounds were segregated until the late 1960's there.


Ah - nice quiet neighbours. Bliss.

Bone Orchard

Nice solution to the slope in the cemetery. I guess that kept Granny from scrunching down in the toe-end of her box.


I was also struck by those piers ... just waiting for a good wind gust. Also, the scene reminds me of a South American hillside barrio or favela, with no real streets in sight. Presumably the substantial houses at the top of the hill are facing a real street, but everything else is served only by footpaths.

Masonry Details

I love this photo. Not having ever been to Birmingham (I imagined Birmingham as being flat) nor being schooled in the journeyman practice of masonry, several details stand out:

  1. The thinness of the brick piers holding up the bungalows on the hillside
  2. The masonry arch caps on the chimneys
  3. The stonework terracing within the cemetery hillside
  4. The fieldstone cemetery wall

All together, it appears to highlight a profound contrast to the present day: an attention to detail combined with relatively inexpensive labor and maximum use of local stones.

Nice Lines

The contrasting images and diagonal lines criscrossing this scene are astounding.


I'm amazed at the houses on the brick pillars. It looks like one small earthquake could take them out.

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