view shows the Alice plant looking southwest. Note that the No. 1 furnace
has been dismantled, and that some of the stoves have been rebuilt.
It is hard to judge the year on this image but it would be after 1905.
is easy to see the slag piles in the upper left of the image, and the
battery coke ovens appear to be in service behind the smoke. Image
what downtown Birmingham must have been like with Alice on the west and
Sloss furnace on the east -- and no air-conditioning!
tells us there were 250 battery (beehives in a row) coke ovens at this
site, with 150 built in 1880 and another 100 added later.
Initially, red ore came from Grace's Gap on the Morris property, and
later from the TCI mines at Hillman and Redding.
for Alice came from the Pratt Mines throughout her life.
Originally the Pratt mines had a private railroad just to serve Alice
furnace, later becoming part of the Birmingham Southern lines.
No. 1 was dismantled in 1905 and No.2 was blown out in 1927 and
dismantled in 1929. But the No. 1 Alice Furnace made the first
basic pig iron in the Birmingham District which was suitable for open
hearth use, as compared to the Bessemer converters used earlier.
From Woodward, describing an 1897 pamphlet:
Alice Furnace ran on basic iron over a continuous period of more than
twelve months and during that time supplied almost every steel works of
any importance in the country', and 'it is a fact that not even a single
ton of the iron was rejected by the customers.' The success of
this run was a contributing factor in the decision to build a steel
plant at Ensley" -- the first steel plant in the Birmingham
original Alice Furnace was extremely important in the development of the
Birmingham District because its success convinced Northern capital that
the manufacture of iron with coke in Birmingham was practical.
Both of the Oxmoor furnaces had been converted to coke from
charcoal but their performance was not impressive. The Edwards
Furnace in Bibb County had been blown in a few months prior to the Alice
But was using brown hematite ore. It remained for the Alice Furnaces
to prove to the iron industry that Alabama coke and red hematite ore
produced a good grade of foundry pig iron."
1940 the Alice Furnace site was a vacant lot as shown below.
Fortunately her neighbor, Sloss Furnace has been preserved as a museum
of the iron industry for future generations.
tens of thousands of drivers pass above the Alice Furnace site on the
I-65 viaduct as shown in the photo at the lower right. Most of
these folks do not know the importance of the site they can hardly see
over the concrete barrier along the interstate. This was the site
of Alice Furnace which played a substantial role in the building of
Birmingham, the Magic City.