A Photo for Friday

"The Old Roundhouse"

The Old Roundhouse

“The Old Roundhouse”

November 24, 2021

Birmingham, AL

FILED UNDER: Photo for Friday, Photography,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:

    My friend, if we are ever in the same town we really need to latch on to that town’s urban exploration club. You would be a natural.

    The picture taking guy. That is a highly valued role. You have the eye.

  2. de stijl says:

    The exploration of abandoned places is key to understanding urban areas.

    When I was quite young Minneapolis had abandoned the riverfront and there were derelict buildings rotting away. I took so many pictures. Downtown development was the focus, and the riverfront was utterly neglected then. Idiots.

    Now, those same buildings have been reclaimed as vital properties. Museums, residential, commercial. Big ticket stuff. High rent. Huge rent.

    The derelict ruins I visited as a youth and found compelling have been reclaimed and built upon. Immensely desirable real estate now, but then it was left to the rats and the homeless.


    Why was it abandoned then?

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I used to explore abandoned ruins, when I was growing up.
    Now I’m an Architect.
    Go figure.

  4. Michael Cain says:

    @de stijl:

    Why was it abandoned then?

    Small manufacturies and warehouses, ill-sized for growing companies of those types, tough access for big trucks to the interstate highways, far away from the suburbs. Hopefully most of the ones in Minneapolis survived to this renaissance. In Omaha, a lot of those buildings were torn down for the value of the huge old slow-growth yellow pine beams and flooring in them, because there will be no wood like that in less than a hundred years. And that assumes someone’s planting and protecting such trees.

    When I lived in Texas decades ago, there were stories told about some rancher who had imported and planted a grove of one of the rare African blackwood species. According to the stories, he said that in 75 years it would be ready to harvest and pay the cost of college for his great-grandkids.

  5. CSK says:

    Contrast and perspective are remarkable.

  6. @de stijl:

    Why was it abandoned then?

    I know you were asking generically, but I will say that Birmingham is fascinating as its ruins (and there are a lot of them) tell various tales. Some of them are, obviously, about race and white flight from certain parts of the city to the suburbs. Some of it is about little in way of zoning restrictions.

    A lot of it is about a city that was basically created out of nothing in the late 1800s (an earned it the nickname “The Magic City”) focused around mining. There are numerous abandoned mines in the area. Steel production meant a lot of foundries and forges. And all of that meant lots of railroads. (And company towns).

    If anyone is ever driving through, I recommend a stop at the Sloss Furnaces, which is open to the public. It is an amazing example of the rusting ruins of this past that rocketed into existence in the 1890s and early part of the 20th century, but that started to be abandoned by the 1970s (if not before).

    My own family’s history plays into this: my grandparents and their whole families migrated to Texas in the 1950s looking for better work opportunities, insofar as working in the mines seemed a deadend.

  7. @CSK: Thanks! It was a truly beautiful location. Just remarkable.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Out of curiosity I clicked thru to your flicker account to see what else you got out of that place. Answer? A lot. Really cool stuff. (I especially like this Black and White pic.)

    If I may ask, what drew you to the photo you posted?

  9. MarkedMan says:

    Was this a railroad roundhouse, i.e. where there was a giant turntable to rotate the trains to face the other direction?

  10. @MarkedMan: According to this, yes. But all of that was concreted over some time ago to convert the space to other usage.

  11. @OzarkHillbilly:

    Answer? A lot. Really cool stuff.


    If I may ask, what drew you to the photo you posted?

    It was hard to pick just one, so I went with one that I thought was representative of the space, but that also captured the light and colors that struck me when I was there.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thanx for satisfying my curiosity. You could have picked just about any of them and not been “wrong”.

  13. de stijl says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Omaha has a pretty great warehouse district imo. Small and compact. Yeah, there’s shitty crowd pleasing, suburb – friendly restaurants there, but there are cool clubs, too. Don’t sleep on Omaha – they gave us Bright Eyes.

    Lua is a favorite song. Conor Oberst is a dude I trust.

  14. de stijl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    If you wanted to do it again you could.

    Urban Exploration is a thing. There are associations now. Locals.

    Chances are high there is an digital outpost in your burg.

    You can do it again if you want to.

    I highly recommend the experience. Beware, you are technically a trespasser and a criminal. Step lightly.