Location in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama
|• Total||40.8 sq mi (105.6 km2)|
|• Land||40.7 sq mi (105.4 km2)|
|• Water||0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)|
|Elevation||509 ft (155 m)|
|• Density||727.3/sq mi (281/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0113977|
Bessemer is located at  about 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Birmingham, a little north of the center of the state.(33.391343, -86.956569),
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 40.8 square miles (106 km2), of which 40.7 square miles (105 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.17%) is water.
Bessemer is situated in the midst of the iron ore and limestone district of Alabama, in the southern part of Jones Valley (about 3 miles (4.8 km) wide). Iron ore was mined on the hills on the city's southeast side, coal was (and still is) mined to the north and west, and limestone deposits were also nearby. All three ingredients were necessary for steelmaking, which led to the area becoming a major steel center from about 1890 through the twentieth century. Steel is no longer made within the city limits, but is still manufactured in the neighboring city of Fairfield.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Bessemer has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
|Climate data for Bessemer, Alabama|
|Average high °C (°F)||13
|Average low °C (°F)||−1
|Precipitation mm (inches)||142
|Source: Weatherbase |
Originally surveyed in 1887 and incorporated in 1889; Bessemer was the vision of industrialist Henry Fairchild DeBardeleben. At age 30 DeBardeleben came to Birmingham and soon acquired a controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Eureka Mining Company. DeBardeleben was the general manager of this company. It was during this time in 1886 that he proposed to buy a site consisting of 4,040 acres (16.3 km2) of land that was located about 13 miles (21 km) to the southwest of Birmingham for approximately $100,000. DeBardeleben's plan was to build eight furnaces and to add two additional railroad outlets to the city within two years. He believed that the future of this city and the surrounding areas depended on the success of its iron and steel resources. The original name of the city was Brooklyn; however DeBardeleben decided to rename the city Bessemer in honor of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British scientist who was famous for his contribution to the steel making process.
Soon several companies from around the country began to look at Bessemer as a possible site for relocation. DeBardeleben founded one of the first buildings in the city in 1887, the Bessemer Land and Improvement Company. The company surveyed the land and plotted streets, parks, and lots around the area. The company sold its first lot on April 12, 1887. Soon afterwords, land values began soaring in the area. Land in the area in 1886 was selling for around $10–25 per acre, but by the spring of 1887 land was selling for as much as $18,000 per acre. The population was also booming in the area. In just over a year, there were more than 4,000 people in Bessemer. The 1880 census placed Bessemer's population as eighth in the state. The city reached fourth in the state in terms of population by 1890 and remained there for several years afterward. Bessemer's rapid growth in its early days led to the nickname of "The Marvel City", a moniker which still finds occasional use today. The citizens of Bessemer voted to incorporate the city on September 9, 1887 and elected R. M. McAdory as the first mayor.
Bessemer uses the mayor–city council form of government. The council has seven members, one from each council district. As of 2013 Kenneth Gulley is mayor. A satellite Jefferson County courthouse is located in downtown Bessemer. This practice hails from the special county government district known as the "Bessemer Cutoff", established in the middle of the 20th Century when Bessemer was a major city in its own right; the "Cutoff" even had a separate series of Alabama license plates, with a different numeric prefix than the rest of the county. Bessemer's status in that respect has largely been supplanted by other Birmingham suburbs such as Hoover, but Bessemer retains its own branch courthouse to this day, and the term "Bessemer Cutoff" remains in everyday usage by area residents.
In 1900 Bessemer ranked eighth in population in the state, second in amount of capital invested in manufacturing, and fourth in the value of its manufactured product for the year. By 1911 ore mining, iron smelting and the manufacture of iron and coke were the chief industries of Bessemer; truck farming was also an important industry.
Today, ore mining has ended as supplies exhausted. Manufacturing remains a factor with the Mueller Water Products U.S. Pipe division ductile pipe plant on the city's north side. On May 9, 2007, U.S. Pipe announced that it would be building a new $45-million foundry near the current plant. The site was selected, among other reasons, for the space which would be available for potential future expansions.
The city was also once home to a large railroad car manufacturing factory operated by Pullman Standard for many decades and later Trinity Industries, but the plant ceased most production in the 1990s, though other industries have relocated to this facility. With the exhaustion of the mines and the exodus of the steelmaking and railcar manufacturing industry, the city faced an economic crisis in the early to mid-1980s with percentage of un-employed workers reaching into the mid 30s. Since that time the city, through the efforts of the Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bessemer Industrial Development Board, has been successful in diversifying its economy and is recognized for its business growth.
As with most cities and counties in Alabama, the tax structure forces Bessemer to be heavily dependent on sales taxes from retail stores. In recent years, the city has benefitted from new retail developments in the area of the Academy Drive interchange with I-20/I-59, as well as Watermark Place, an outlet mall near Alabama Adventure. In 2008, Colonial Promenade Tannehill, a new mixed used retail development, opened at the Exit 1 interchange with Interstate 459. Notable tenants include a Publix supermarket, Target, Hibbett Sporting Goods, JC Penney, Bama Fever and a 14-screen movie theatre.
As of the census of 2000, there were 29,672 people, 11,537 households, and 7,868 families residing in the city. The population density was 729.0 people per square mile (281.5/km2). There were 12,790 housing units at an average density of 314.2 per square mile (121.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 69.55% Black or African American, 28.93% White, 0.28% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 1.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 11,537 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.6% were married couples living together, 29.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.12.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.8% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 82.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $23,066, and the median income for a family was $28,230. Males had a median income of $29,413 versus $21,552 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,232. About 24.2% of families and 27.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.8% of those under age 18 and 24.7% of those age 65 or over.
- White 6,669
- Black 19,546
- Hispanic 1,113
- Non-Hispanic 26,136
- White Non-Hispanic 6,482
- American Indian and Alaska Native 88
- Asian 53
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0
- Other 858
- Two or More Races 242
In 1911, the town was served by five railroad lines: Alabama Great Southern (Queen & Crescent route), the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham (St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad system), the Birmingham Southern Railroad, and the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic railways. By 2006, these companies had consolidated to CSX Transportation, which has lines to Birmingham and Brookwood; and the Norfolk Southern Railway, with lines to Birmingham, Mobile and New Orleans; Birmingham Southern continues in service. A major railroad feature is the "High Line", constructed by Tennessee Coal & Iron (predecessor to U.S. Steel) to ship iron ore from the mines on the city's south side to the steel works in nearby Fairfield. This elevated line traverses the eastern side of the city, and though tracks were removed over much of the High Line when the mines closed, part of the lines is still used by the Birmingham Southern, and all of the roadbed and bridges remain in place.
Bessemer is served by the small Bessemer Airport to the southeast of the city. Commercial service to/from the city is served by the much larger Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport located 5 miles (8.0 km) from downtown Birmingham.
Government and infrastructure
The Alabama Department of Corrections operates the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, a prison for men, in unincorporated Jefferson County, Alabama, near Bessemer. The prison includes one of the two Alabama death rows for men.
Bessemer operates its own school system independent of Jefferson County schools. The system includes:
- Hard Elementary located on Arlington Avenue. Principal:Barbara Mccoy
- Jonesboro Elementary located on Owen Avenue. Principal: undecided
- Greenwood Elementary located on Roselyn Road. Principal: Deborah Billups.
- Abrams Elementary located on 23rd Street. Principal: Brenda Rumley.
- Westhills Elementary located on Glenn Road. Principal: Mildred Posey.
- Davis Middle located on Clarendon Avenue. Principal: Albert Soles.
- Bessemer City High School (formally Jess Lanier) located on Premiere Parkway. Principal: Jerome Cook.
The Board of Education also operates the Quitman Mitchell Opportunity Center, located diagonally across from the Board on 5th Avenue and 17th Street, which includes an adult learning center, Even Start child care center, and New Horizon Alternative School.
There are also three K–12 private schools in the city: Bessemer Academy, Rock Christian School, and Flint Hill Christian School.
Lawson State Community College operates the former Bessemer Technical College campus in the Academy Drive area; the two schools merged in 2005 as a cost-saving measure.
The performance center Bessemer Civic Center provides multiple performance spaces for music and theatre.
Bessemer is served by one weekly newspaper, The Western Star, which is owned by Bob Tribble as part of his newspaper corporation based in Manchester, Ga. Coverage in this paper is not limited to the city proper, but instead covers all of the Bessemer Cutoff, including Bessemer, Hueytown, McCalla, Midfield, Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, and the large sections of western Jefferson County that remain unincorporated. In 2008, The Western Star celebrated their 25th year of covering community news in the Bessemer Cutoff.
Daily newspaper coverage of the area comes from The Birmingham News, which also publishes a weekly section devoted to news from Bessemer and surrounding communities.
One radio station, WZGX (1450 AM), operates within the city; it broadcasts Spanish language programming and music aimed at the growing Mexican population of Jefferson County, but continues a tradition established by previous owners of broadcasting high school football games on Friday nights (in English). All of metro Birmingham's stations are heard in Bessemer, as well as several stations broadcasting from Tuscaloosa.
Television station WDBB (channel 17) is licensed to Bessemer, but it actually broadcasts from studios in Birmingham, simulcasting with WTTO (channel 21). All of Birmingham's television stations are viewed in Bessemer, and some have established news bureaus there.
Points of interest
- Bessemer is home to a water park, Splash Adventure. The park was originally built as Visionland, and operated by a consortium of Jefferson County cities and the county itself. After a series of financial difficulties and finally Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the park was sold in 2002 to Southland Entertainment Group. The park faced more financial problems, and in 2008, the park was sold again, this time to Adrenaline Family Entertainment, an Oklahoma-based theme park company, and the current owner, General Attractions LLC. The park was previously known as Alabama Adventure.
- The Bright Star, a restaurant and local institution located in downtown Bessemer, is billed as the state's oldest continuously-operated eating establishment. Founded in 1907 as a small café, the restaurant has expanded several times over the years, most recently in 1985.
- The Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge is a small National Wildlife Refuge protecting the endangered watercress darter.
- The Bessemer Hall of History, a museum dedicated to the history of Bessemer and Western Jefferson County. The museum is housed in the former AGS depot which was constructed in 1916 and located at 1905 Alabama Ave. The building is listed on the National Historic Registry.
- The Downtown Bessemer National Historic District. Bessemer, Alabama's downtown is listed as a National Historic District.
- The Dr. Thomas McAdory Owen House, 510 N. 18th Street. Listed on the National Historic Registry in 1982.
- The Owen Plantation House. Listed on the National Historic Registry.
- The Thomas McAdory, 214 Eastern Valley Road. Listed on the National Historic Registry in 1972.
- Canaan Baptist Church, 824 Fifteenth Street North. Listed on the National Historic Registry in 2005 due to its work during the Civil Rights Movement.
- Canaan Baptist Church, 2543 Morgan Road SE. Listed on the National Historic Registry for being the oldest church in Jefferson County. It was established in 1818 - one year older than the State of Alabama.
- Bo Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner, NFL and MLB player
- Jameis Winston College Football Heisman Trophy winner.
- Neil Bonnett, NASCAR driver
- McKinley Boykin, professional football player
- Alex Bradford, composer, singer, arranger, and choir director
- Mildred Brown, journalist
- Thornton Dial, African-American folk artist
- Nelsan Ellis, actor and playwright
- Anthony Henton, former NFL linebacker
- Virginia Hill, actress, mob courier and girlfriend of Bugsy Siegel
- Frank House, born in Bessemer, major league baseball player
- Reese McCall, former NFL tight end
- Deborah E. McDowell, English professor and author of a 1997 memoir of life in Bessemer, Leaving Pipe Shop
- Elijah Nevett, NFL player
- Kerry Rhodes, NFL player
- DeMeco Ryans, NFL player
- Glenn Shadix, born in Bessemer, American actor
- John Paul Thomas, American artist, educator and scholar; born in Bessemer
- Olanda Truitt, NFL player
- Larry Watkins, former NFL running back
- Jack Whitten, abstract painter
- Andre Williams, singer and producer
- Rod Windsor, NFL player
- Matilda (chicken), famous fowl and Guinness World Record holder
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- Climate Summary for Bessemer, Alabama
- "Weatherbase.com". Weatherbase. 2013. Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
- Source Al.com, Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley talks about the state of his city Jesse Chambers on February 08, 2013 at 5:58 PM, updated February 15, 2013 at 11:35 AM
- United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- "Post Office Location - BESSEMER." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
- "Donaldson Correctional Facility." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
- "Bo Jackson". databaseFootball.com. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
- "Neil Bonnett". Racing Reference.info. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "McKinley Boykin". NFL.com. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Alex Bradford". Rovi Corp. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Mildred Brown". M.D.B.M. Study Cente. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Thornton Dial". Public Radio International. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Nelsan Ellis". A+E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) . The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th edition ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8.
- "Deborah E. McDowell". University of Virginia. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Elijah Nevett". Pro-Football Reference. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Kerry Rhodes". Learnboost.com. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "DeMeco Ryans". Philadelphia Eagles. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Glenn Shadix". Notable Names Data Base. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Olanda Truitt". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Jack Whitten". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Andre Williams". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- "Rod Windsor". Cleveland Browns. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Bessemer.|