Birmingham is the largest city in the U.S. state of Alabama and is the county seat of Jefferson County. The population of the city is 242,820 as of the 2000 census, but has declined to 229,424 according to the 2006 estimate. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, as of the 2006 census estimates, has a population of 1,100,019. It also the largest city in the Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman Combined Statistical Area, colloquially known as Greater Birmingham,which contains roughly one quarter of the population in Alabama.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, just after the U.S. Civil War, as an industrial enterprise. It was named after Birmingham, the major industrial city of England. Through the middle of the 20th century, Birmingham was the primary industrial center of the Southern United States. The astonishing pace of Birmingham's growth through the turn of the century, earned it the nicknames "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Much like Pittsburgh in the north, Birmingham's major industries centered around iron and steel production.
Over the course of the 20th century, the city's economy diversified. Though the manufacturing industry maintains a strong presence in Birmingham, other industries such as banking, insurance, medicine, publishing, and biotechnology have risen in stature. Birmingham has been recognized as the top city for income growth in the United States with nearly a one-hundred percent increase in per capita income since 1990.
Today, Birmingham ranks as one of the most important business centers in the Southeastern United States and is also one of the largest banking centers in the U.S. In addition, the Birmingham area serves as headquarters to one Fortune 500 company: Regions Financial. Five Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered in Birmingham. In recent years Birmingham has been named by various groups as one of the best U.S. cities in which to live and raise a family. 
Birmingham was founded on June 1, 1871 by real estate promoters who sold lots near the planned crossing of the Alabama & Chattanooga and South & North railroads. The first business at that crossroads was the trading post and country store Yeilding's, run by the still prominent Yeilding family. The site of the railroad crossing was notable for the nearby deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone - the three principal raw materials used in making steel. Birmingham is the only place worldwide where significant amounts of all three minerals can be found in such close proximity. From the start the new city was planned as a great center of industry. The founders borrowed the name of Birmingham, England's principal industrial city, to advertise that point. Birmingham got off to a slow start: the city was impeded by an outbreak of cholera and a Wall Street crash in 1873. But soon afterward began to grow.
The turn of the century brought the substantial growth that gave Birmingham the nickname "The Magic City" as the downtown area developed from a low-rise commercial and residential district into a busy grid of neoclassical mid-rise and high-rise buildings and busy streetcar lines. Between 1902 and 1912 four large office buildings were constructed at the intersection of 20th Street, the central north-south spine of the city, and 1st Avenue North, which connected the warehouses and industrial facilities stretching along the east-west railroad corridor. This impressive group of early skyscrapers was nicknamed "The Heaviest Corner on Earth".
The Great Depression hit Birmingham especially hard as sources of capital that were fueling the city's growth rapidly dried up at the same time that farm laborers, driven off the land, made their way to the city in search of work. New Deal programs made important contributions to the city's infrastructure and artistic legacy, including such key improvements as Vulcan's tower and Oak Mountain State Park.
The wartime demand for steel and the post-war building boom gave Birmingham a rapid return to prosperity. Manufacturing diversified beyond the production of raw materials and several major cultural institutions, such as the Birmingham Museum of Art, were able to expand their scope.
In the 1950s and '60s Birmingham received national and international attention as a center of the civil rights struggle for African-Americans. The city was given the derisive nickname Bombingham because of a string of racially motivated bombings that took place during this time. A watershed in the civil rights movement occurred in 1963 when Martin Luther King, Jr., imprisoned for having taken part in a nonviolent protest, wrote the now famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, a defining treatise in his cause against segregation. Birmingham is also known for a bombing which occurred later that year, in which four black girls were killed by a bomb planted at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The event would inspire the African-American poet Dudley Randall's opus, The Ballad of Birmingham, as well as jazz musician John Coltrane's song, "Alabama."
In the 1970s urban renewal efforts focused around the development of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which developed into a major medical and research center. In 1971 Birmingham celebrated its centennial with a round of public works improvements, including the upgrading of Vulcan Park. Birmingham's banking institutions enjoyed considerable growth as well and new skyscrapers started to appear in the city center for the first time since the 1920s. These projects helped the city's economy to diversify, but did not prevent the exodus of many of the city's residents to independent suburbs. In 1979 Birmingham elected Dr. Richard Arrington Jr. as its first African-American mayor.
The population inside Birmingham's city limits has fallen over the past few decades. From 340,887 in 1960, the population was down to 242,820 in 2000, a loss of about 29 percent. However, the growth of Birmingham's suburbs over that same period has kept the metropolitan population growing.
Today, Birmingham has begun to experience a bit of a rebirth. Currently there are around a billion dollars being invested in reconstructing the downtown area into a 24-hour mixed-use district. The market for downtown lofts and condominiums has mushroomed while restaurant, retail and cultural options are beginning to sprout up. In 2006 the visitors bureau selected "the diverse city" as a new tag line for the city.
Birmingham is located at GR1.(33.524755, -86.812740)
Birmingham occupies Jones Valley, flanked by long parallel mountain ridges (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills) running from north-east to south-west. The valley is drained by small creeks (Village Creek, Valley Creek) which flow into the Black Warrior River. More importantly, the valley was bisected by the principal railroad corridor, along which most of the early manufacturing operations began.
Red Mountain lies immediately south of downtown. Many of Birmingham's television and radio broadcast towers are lined up along this prominent ridge. The "Over the Mountain" area, including Shades Valley, Shades Mountain and beyond, was largely shielded from the industrial smoke and rough streets of the industrial city. This is the setting for Birmingham's more affluent suburbs of Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, and Hoover. South of Shades Valley is the Cahaba River basin, one of the most diverse river ecosystems in America.
Sand Mountain, a smaller ridge, flanks the city to the north and divides Jones Valley from much more rugged land to the north. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad (now CSX Transportation) enters the valley through Boyles Gap, a prominent gap in the long low ridge.
Ruffner Mountain, located due east of the heart of the city, is home to Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States.
From Birmingham's early days onward, the steel industry has always played a crucial role in the local economy. Though the steel industry doesn't maintain the same level of prominence it once held in Birmingham, steel production and processing continue to play a key role in the economy. Several of the nation's largest steelmakers including U.S. Steel, McWane, and Nucor, all have a major presence in Birmingham. In recent years, local steel companies have announced around $100-million in expansions and new plants in and around Birmingham.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham's economy was transformed with investments in bio-technology and medical research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its adjacent hospital. The UAB Hospital is a Level I trauma center providing health care and breakthrough medical research. UAB is now the area's largest employer and the largest in Alabama with a workforce of about 20,000. Health care services provider HealthSouth is also headquartered in the city.
Birmingham is also a leading banking center, serving as home to two major banks: Regions Financial Corporation and Compass Bancshares. SouthTrust, another large bank headquartered in Birmingham, was acquired by Wachovia in 2004, which still maintains major operations in the city as one of the regional headquarters of Wachovia. In November 2006, Regions Financial merged with AmSouth Bancorporation which was also headquartered in Birmingham, forming the 8th Largest U. S. Bank (by total assets). Nearly a dozen smaller banks are also headquartered in the Magic City such as Superior Bank and New South Federal Savings Bank.
Telecommunications provider AT&T, formerly BellSouth, has a major presence with several large offices in the metropolitan area. Major insurance providers, Protective Life and ProAssurance among others, both are headquartered in Birmingham and employ a large number of people in Greater Birmingham.
The city is also a powerhouse of construction and engineering companies. It started with Rust Engineering International and has grown to many other construction and engineering companies such as BE&K, Brasfield & Gorrie(largest in the state), BL Harbert International, and Dunn Construction, all of which are among the top engineering and construction companies in the world.
Metropolitan Birmingham has consistently been rated as one of America's best places to work and earn a living based on the area's competitive salary rates and relatively low living expenses. One 2006 study published at Salary.com determined that Birmingham was 2nd in the nation for building personal net worth based on local salary rates, living expenses, and unemployment rates.
Another 2006 study by Bizjournals.com calculated Birmingham's "combined personal income" (the sum of all money earned by all residents of an area in a year) at $48.1 Billion.
The city of Birmingham is served by the Birmingham City Schools system. It is run by the Birmingham Board of Education with a current active enrollment of 30,500 in 67 schools: 11 high schools, 13 middle schools, 34 elementary schools, and 9 K-8 secondary schools.
The Birmingham Public Library with 21 branches serves the entire community to provide education and entertainment for all ages.
The Birmingham area is home to some of America's best schools. In 2005, the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School in Irondale, an eastern suburb of Birmingham, was rated as the #1 high school in America by Newsweek, a national publication. The school remains among the nation's Top 5 high schools. Mountain Brook High School placed 250 on the list. Other local schools that have been rated among America's best in various publications include Vestavia Hills High School and the Alabama School of Fine Arts located downtown. The metro area also has two highly regarded prep schools: The Altamont School, located in Birmingham proper, and Indian Springs School in north Shelby County near Pelham.
Birmingham is the cultural and entertainment capital of Alabama with its numerous art galleries in the area and home to Birmingham Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the state. Birmingham is also home to the state's major ballet, opera, and symphony orchestra companies such the Alabama Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Ballet, Birmingham Concert Chorale, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival and Opera Birmingham.
Other entertainment venues in the area include:
Birmingham's nightlife is primarily clustered around Five Points South and Lakeview, but an additional $55-million entertainment district has been approved for an area adjacent to the BJCC. Birminghamtrends, Birmingham's Online Guide to the City's Nightlife. Birmingham also has a very popular local music scene that has made the city a breeding ground for some of the nation's best musicians.
Birmingham has its own Orange Lodge. Birmingham "Sons of William" LOL 1003 was instituted as a Lodge in January 2004. The man behind the formation of this lodge was Rev Paul Zahl. The lodge has a close relationship with Maghera "Sons of William" LOL 209 from Northern Ireland. The members of the Birmingham Lodge have travelled to Northern Ireland to participate in the Annual "Twelfth" parade.
Birmingham is served by the city magazine of the Chamber of Commerce, The Birmingham magazine.
Birmingham is served by one daily newspaper, The Birmingham News (circulation 150,346). The Birmingham News' Wednesday edition features six sub regional sections named East, Hoover, North, Shelby, South, and West that cover news stories from those areas. The Birmingham Post-Herald, the city's second daily, published its last issue in 2006. Other local publications include The North Jefferson News, The Leeds News, The Western Star (Bessemer) and The Hoover Gazette.
Birmingham Weekly, Birmingham Free Press and Black & White (published biweekly) are Birmingham's free alternative publications. The Birmingham Times, a historic African-American newspaper, also is published weekly.
Birmingham is part of the Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa television market, which is the nation's 40th largest. The major television affiliates are WBRC 6 (FOX), WBIQ 10 (PBS), WVTM 13 (NBC), WTTO 21 (CW), WBMA 33/40 (ABC), WIAT 42 (CBS), WPXH 44 (ION), and WABM 68 (MyNetworkTV).
Over 45 radio stations serve the Birmingham market, which is the nation's 56th largest radio market. Major broadcasting companies who own stations in the Birmingham market include Clear Channel, Cox Radio, Citadel Broadcasting, and Crawford Broadcasting. The Rick and Bubba show, which is syndicated to over 25 stations primarily in the Southeast, originates from Birmingham's WZZK-FM. The Paul Finebaum sports-talk show, also syndicated to a network of stations mainly in Alabama, originates from WJOX-FM.
Visitors and tourists can watch City Vision TV to find out where to eat, shop, and sight see around the Magic City. City Vision TV is a new, but growing, local station available in most hotel rooms throughout Greater Birmingham.