Southern Railway Terminal Station, Bessemer Alabama
The Bessemer Southern Railway Terminal is an excellent example of a small town railroad terminal constructed in the early 1900's. Built by the Alabama Great Southern Railroad as the result of a direct order by the Railroad Commissioner, the building stands as a monument to the importance of Bessemer, one of the early industrial towns of Alabama.
Bessemer was founded in 1887 as a result of the iron and steel making boom in Jefferson County. The town founder, Henry Debardeleben, noted that the coal and iron beds which lay in close proximity to the town "were intended by nature to feed some great creature." He was correct and the town prospered. Around the turn of the century, Bessemer, which had a population of 6,358, was served by five railroads none of which offered more than a one-room shack for passengers.
In February of 1906, a group of citizens who called themselves the Bessemer Board of Trade invited the Railroad Commissioner to inspect the terminal buildings. He found them "unfit to keep cattle in."
As a result the lines which served Bessemer were ordered jointly to build a Union Station. No agreement was reached by the lines and consequently the town continued to use the five wooden shacks.
In 1915 the Railroad Commission was called in again and proposals were heard. The Railroad Commissioner, Charles Henderson, who was running for governor, decreed that the Union Station was not necessary as long as each line built its own terminal. After the election of Henderson the new Railroad Commissioner, B. H. Cooper, visited the town and ordered both the L & N and Alabama Great Southern systems to erect a new station within 60 days. It was specified that AGS would spend $30,000.
This railway system decided to employ its own building and mechanical forces in the construction of the terminal, rather than let a contract. H. F. Latimer, Division Passenger Agent for the railroad, was instructed to make a trip through the west to make a careful inspection of the most up-to-date stations and to employ their best features in the plans of Bessemer Station.
The depot was completed in 1916 at the specified cost of $30,000 and the town's most prominent citizens acted as a reception committee at the opening on March 2, 1916.