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Abandoned Places – The Lyric Theatre versus The Alabama Theatre (July 09)

Sorry for the delay since the last post. Prep for a business trip to Los Angeles, the actually journey/work and then a week to play catch-up put me behind on more than a few projects.

Like many theatres of the era, The Lyric Theatre had an adjacent office building. The day to day businesses paid the bills while the theatre brought in potential customers and made the businesses look glamorous by association. It was a business model that was supposed to bring in complimentary customers in to both. In the case of The Lyric Building, the businesses soldiered on well after the theatre shut down in the 1930’s and again in the 1950’s. By the 1970’s, many of the businesses in downtown didn’t survive the violence and social upheavals that the Civil Rights movement visited upon Birmingham. In the case of The Lyric Building, the doors closed on much of the building by 1978. The only exceptions to this were two ground floor stores.

Bottom to top and that which lies in between

As we got to the ground floor landing / main street side entrance, it became apparent that the previous owners (pre-historical society), had made one last half hearted attempt to ‘modernize’ the building. Thankfully, they didn’t get too far. Notice the drop ceiling brackets and racks hanging from the 12 ft high (4m) ceilings.

Near the front door was a large music equipment box and unopened Killian’s Irish Ale (dated 1992). No samples today.

The Otis Elevators were lit and seemed to be working; however, given the age and 1991 inspection tag, we opted to take the stairs.

Directly across the hall from the elevator was this relic – a 1920 era fuse/switch box

This still works though it would never past modern electrical codes and regulations in the US.

Stairs upwards, complete with menacing barred gates.

On the second floor (US convention), we found boxes of legal records, documents and mementos of past tenants..

The building has 12 foot high ceilings on the street side of the building and each office has an over door window that opens to ventilate the hot air outward. Why? Air conditioning is still a modern convenience and at the turn of the 20th century, designers built buildings to cause drafts intentionally. Outer offices had high ceilings to draw hot air upward. Inner offices appear to have 10 foot (3.1m) high ceilings.

Inner wall or core offices had windows that faced out to the breezeway. No it wasn’t a great view, but in the Alabama summer, the breezeway stayed 10 to 15 degrees cooler due to the shade. Offices could open their windows and the heavier cool air would be drawn in, while the lighter, hotter air would vent to the outer offices and to street side high windows. Voila’- a natural ventilation system.

Core / breezeway windows

We even discovered where they were storing the seats from Alabama Theatre following it’s restoration a few years ago.

Plenty of seating

Speaking of “The Showplace of the South” (The Alabama Theatre)

Old style light switches (not used in the US since 1967 due to fire and electrical codes). I’m sure these dated back to at least the 1940’s.

As we worked through the backside of the 2nd floor, we were met with this surprise. No it isn’t real, but fortunately the room was well lit or we’d likely have gotten a shock.

Next floor - soon


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Those are great!
Apr. 30th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
I am surprised that this building remained unconditioned and unused for so many years. Sure, it looks old but some contractors could turn this place into a great retro office space building. I've always found the English architectural style inspiring. Our company is about to move in some new offices to let London, I hope they look better than that.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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