Striving to Ensure All Are Accepted, Welcomed, and Treated Equally in Mountain Brook
Mountain Brook is a city in Jefferson County, Alabama. Incorporated in 1942, it is part of the Greater Birmingham metropolitan area.
Mountain Brook was originally designed and developed as Mountain Brook Estates in the 1920s by Warren H. Manning and Robert Jemison Jr. The community was created on the Shades Valley side of Red Mountain – away from the industrial pollution in Birmingham – with an eye toward preserving the natural surroundings and environment. Mountain Brook Estates offered picturesque homesites in a setting with scenic bluffs, mountain streams, footpaths, and winding roads; and complete with all the modern amenities – like paved roads, city water, and electricity – that were revolutionary for their time.
Part of Jemison’s plan was to limit the types of businesses permitted in the newly developed community; forbidding any businesses with excessive noise, fumes, or dust. Today, residents and visitors still congregate at the many locally owned and operated restaurants, shops, and businesses in the four Mountain Brook Villages:
Mountain Brook Village has a small town feel with dozens of restaurants, boutique stores, salons, and other businesses. It is surrounded by some of Mountain Brook's most historic residential estates and is home to the community’s oldest existing public school, Mountain Brook Elementary. It is also walking distance to the Birmingham Zoo, Botanical Gardens, and Jemison Park’s Nature Trail.
Crestline Village has a main street vibe and is home to Mountain Brook’s city hall, municipal court, police station, fire department, public library, and Crestline Elementary School. One of the most recognizable landmarks in Crestline Village is the clock tower, which serves as a meeting spot for people before frequenting one of Crestline Village’s many restaurants, shops, and places of business.
English Village has an old world charm with cafés, shops, and galleries. The closest in proximity to downtown Birmingham, English Village is perched near the top of Red Mountain. In its center is the sculpture, “Civitas”, dedicated to Carolyn Smith, Alabama’s first female architect who designed and built many of the area’s first homes in the 1920s.
Cahaba Village is the newest village in Mountain Brook with more of a transitional feel that ties the nostalgia of Mountain Brook's three historic villages with the community's newer suburban neighborhoods. Cahaba Village is unique in Mountain Brook in that it offers a mixed-use concept with residential townhomes above the retail shops.
Most of the original residents of Mountain Brook were affluent business leaders and their families. Original Promotional Literature stated "Mountain Brook Estates is socially selective. Residents will never have to face that problem: 'which neighbor dare I choose as a familiar?' because Mountain Brook Estates makes its appeal to persons of discrimination and critical taste." Also, Property Deeds for lots sold during the early development of Mountain Brook contained the following restriction: "property shall be used by white persons only, except that any servant or servants employed on the premises may occupy servants' quarters or house”. Further restricting the diversity of who would live in or visit Mountain Brook in its early years of development was the fact that there was no access to the streetcar network of the Birmingham Railway, so residents mostly relied on automobiles.
Even though its population has grown over time, Mountain Brook’s diversity hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. A contributing factor is the history of Mountain Brook Schools. In 1950, approximately 8,000 people lived in Mountain Brook. At that time, the schools in Mountain Brook were part of the Jefferson County School System. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for the end of legal segregation in schools and other aspects of public life in the United States. But it didn't prescribe a remedy; those would come later from lower federal court orders to desegregate within specific school districts. In 1959, Mountain Brook formed its own school district independent from Jefferson County. In doing so, it sheltered itself from court orders to integrate Jefferson County schools. Immediately following the creation of its own school district, the 1960s saw Mountain Brook’s population almost double. Since 1970, the population of Mountain Brook has remained steady at around 20,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 96.8% of Mountain Brook residents identified themselves as White, 1.6% as Asian, 1.0% as Black, 1.0% as Hispanic or Latino, 0.4% as two or more races, 0.3% as American Indian and Alaska Native, and 0.1% as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Regarding socio-economic status, Mountain Brook is still considered an affluent community with a median household income of $143,221.
Mountain Brook has always been a predominantly religious community. In 2020, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces, 82.8% of its residents identified themselves as Christian (40.2% Baptist, 9.4% Methodist, 8.6% Catholic, 4.9% Pentecostal, 2.8% Presbyterian, 2.1% Episcopalian, 0.7% Church of Jesus Christ, 0.5% Lutheran, and 13.6% other Christian faiths), 0.6% as Jewish, and 0.5% as affiliates with Islam.
MB Listens is committed to understanding, not only the history of Mountain Brook, but who we are today. It also seeks to understand how our community's past and present have had an impact on diversity here, and how we can make Mountain Brook an accepting and welcoming place for anyone to live, work, and visit.
MB Listens wants to hear your personal history. How has a lack of broader diversity in Mountain Brook impacted you? Have you felt that you are welcomed, accepted, and treated equally in Mountain Brook. Have you witnessed, experienced, or been affected by racism, bigotry, and prejudice in Mountain Brook? What did you do? How did you deal with it? What can we all do better?
Email us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!