Story published in StyleBlueprint Birmingham
It’s always been about the bluff. Towering 500 feet above Birmingham, Bluff Park — a community that sits on the summit of Shades Mountain — has attracted folks seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the city for more than a century.
Bluff Park History
Before it was Bluff Park, the area went by Hale Springs. Gardner Hale, who previously served as superintendent of the Daniel Pratt Cotton Gin Factory in Prattville, purchased the property in 1863. After his death in 1880, Hale’s sons pioneered the property and helped turn it into a burgeoning resort destination.
With several springs dotting the mountain’s edge, the bluff allured people looking to get a fresh dip in the streams, which were believed to have medicinal benefits. Eventually, hotels and lodges began popping up along what is now Shades Crest Road, establishing the bluff as a flourishing resort community.
Heather Jones Skaggs, Bluff Park resident and author of Images of America: Bluff Park, says it’s hard to pinpoint when the area officially began going by Bluff Park, but she guesses it wasn’t long after the Bluff Park Hotel opened its doors.
“Bluff Park Hotel, Pinnacle House and Liberty Hall — those were the main destinations along Shades Crest Road,” Heather says. Established in 1907 by the Bluff Park Hotel Company, the hotel had 20 rooms that opened up to a porch where guests could enjoy a scenic view of the bluff. The hotel’s neighbors, Liberty Hall and Pinnacle House, also offered impressive mountain views and served as temporary sleeping quarters for visitors from throughout the state.
Only a few relics remain of the hotel, which caught fire and burned to the ground in 1925. The ledger and fireplace are some of the few remnants of the short-lived hotel. “Some people would write down notes in the ledger,” Heather says, going on to point out that one guest even documented the springs and their alleged healing powers.
After Shades Crest Road was widened to meet the growing housing demand along the mountain, Bluff Park began blossoming into an established Birmingham suburb. “There’s still people who will say they’re from Bluff Park before they say they’re from Hoover,” Heather says. Bluff Park was officially annexed into the City of Hoover in 1989, making it the city’s oldest community.
The Bluff Today
Today, Bluff Park offers the appeal of a lush, quiet neighborhood — with whispers of its past in the gorgeous historic homes — intermingled with bustling pockets of business. Several restaurants and shops, specifically within the historic district of Shades Crest Road, have rooted themselves in the landscape, becoming family favorites for those who call Bluff Park home.
Just a stone’s throw from where the area’s iconic springs used to flow sits the Tip Top Grill, a revamped service station that now flips some of the best burgers in Birmingham. Several more shops line the road across the street from Tip Top, such as the popular Bluff Park Diner. “Before it was the diner it was ‘Bert’s on the Bluff’,” Heather remembers. “I used to go up there with my parents and brother. It’s just a good meat-and-three place.”
Neighboring the small shopping strip — which, along with the diner, houses Bluff Park Hardware, Moonlight on the Mountain, Kasey Davis Dentistry, Bluff Park Barber Shop and Turquoise women’s boutique — is On A Shoestring Antiques. The eclectic shop is otherwise known as “House of Scraps” to locals who know their history.
“The reason why they call it the House of Scraps is because everything the original owner used, he collected from different areas,” Heather says, adding that it’s believed the Bluff Park Hotel tennis courts used to be located on the same plot of land. Today, the antiques shop overflows with odds and ends. On weekends, the shop’s lawn turns into a seasonal market — Park and Crest — where residents can buy local honey, fresh eggs, jewelry and other locally made goods.
Bluff Park’s destination for top-quality meats is only a short drive away from the Shades Crest Road and Park Avenue intersection. Mr. P’s Butcher Shop & Deli, which has been family-owned for decades, offers specialty meats, cheeses and other locally sourced goods. Not too long ago, Bluff Park Ice Cream Shoppe took up residence next to the deli, too.
“We’ve seen a lot of new ventures come in, especially in the last five years,” Heather says of Bluff Park’s business growth. Because the area hasn’t slowed down much since its founding, she says she expects Bluff Park to continue flourishing and welcoming more residents and businesses in the process.
“A lot of people will say ‘People who live in Bluff Park never want to get off the mountain,’” Heather says with a smile. “I guess I’m one of them.”