Skip to content Sitemap

Lakeview Park, Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama has so many grand old houses and buildings it’s sometimes easy to forget that she’s one of the youngest old girl on the block.  Birmingham was officially founded in 1871.  Atlanta, GA was founded in 1847, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa in 1819, Huntsville in 1805, and the “elder sister” of them all, Mobile which was founded in 1702.

January 26, 1871, a group of businessmen gathered at the office of Josiah Morris and Company in Montgomery, Alabama to officially organize the Elyton Land Company.  The Elyton Land Company Board of Directors adopted bylaws which included “The city to be built by the Elyton Land Company, near Elyton, in the County of Jefferson, State of Alabama, shall be called Birmingham.”

highlandfromterracecourt

 

monroeave

 

highland ave 1907

Elyton Land Company then set about fashioning a city.  Some of the improvements were Highland Avenue and Lakeview Park. Lakeview Park was situated in the Lakeview suburb of Birmingham at the intersection of Highland and Clairmont Avenues.

ParkMap-1200x1200

A well-worn historic marker on 6th Ave S offers clues as to one of the early major landowners in Birmingham and his ties to Lakeview.  Benjamin P. “Pink” Worthington, Jr., one of the Elyton Land Co. founding directors, owned a 1,000-acre farmstead in what is now Lakeview and Avondale. He sold all but two acres of the land that surrounded his house for 133 shares in the Elyton Land Co., in 1870.  Portions of the property were referred to as “Pink Worthington’s Frog Pond.” He also was a founding director of the National Bank of Birmingham. He was married to Caroline Mitchell of South Carolina and had 11 children. He died in 1884. The Birmingham Historical Society marker on 6th Ave S at 30th St S erected in 1956 marks the spot where the Worthington home stood from 1858-1953. The stately, eight-room home had one of the first water systems in the area supplied by springs later submerged under Rushton Park.

Worthington-Benjamin-Pinckney

Benjamin P. “Pink” Worthington, Jr.

Alex-Bush-Photographer-March-4-1937-FRONT-NORTH-AND-WEST-ELEVATION-Benjamin-Pinckney-Worthington-House-Sixth-Avenue-South-Birmingham-Jefferson-County-AL1

Home of Benjamin Worthington, Jr. on 30th St. S.

Lakeview Park was formed around a man-made lake that was created by damming up springs in the area and was accessible by the streetcar system running along Highland Avenue.  These streetcars brought tremendous changes to the everyday lives of the citizens in the late 1800s.  They encouraged the growth of suburbs by allowing people to live miles from where they worked and they opened new avenues for amusement that led to the development of Birmingham’s turn-of-the-century lake resorts.

lakeview postcard

 

1907_Lakeview_postcard

To add to the appeal of the Lakeview Park development, the Elyton Land Company built the Lakeview Hotel, which was opened to the public on July 12, 1887, and was visited by Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison.  it became a rendezvous, especially during the summer months, for the elite of the city and all parts of the South.  The two-story hotel was lit by electric lights, and each room had running water and an electric bell.  It was heated by steam throughout.  Lakeview Hotel was known for its excellent cuisine with French cooks serving only meats that were purchased in New York.

Lakeview_Hotel_LIBRARY-1

Lakeview Hotel

SCANDAL AND MURDER AT LAKEVIEW

richard hawes

Richard “Dick” Hawes

 

Mary emma pettis hawes

Emma Hawes

 

May hawes

May Hawes

December 4, 1888, would find the Lakeview Park associated with a notorious murder mystery that became known as “Hawes Horror”.  This was perhaps the first sensational crime of this magnitude to hit the young city of Birmingham and certainly to affect the Lakeview area.  The trial produced a deadly riot and gained national attention for the young city of Birmingham.

Richard “Dick” Hawes was an engineer for the Georgia-Pacific railroad and he lived on 32nd Street South with his wife Emma, daughters May and Irene and his youngest child, son Willie.  By all accounts, Emma Hawes was a troubled alcoholic.  Since Richard’s job often required that he be away from home, sometimes for extended periods of time, the caring of the 3 children and their mother fell to the oldest daughter, May, with some help from Fannie Bryant who did laundry and cooked for the family.

According to a coroner’s inquest, Richard and Emma had a very troubled marriage.  December 4, 1888, the body of a young white female was found in East Lake by local teenagers out for a boat ride.  Alfred Babbitt, Jefferson County Coroner, determined the cause of death to be murder.  However, no one East Lake recognized the young girl.  The body was laid out for viewing for the general public at Lockwood & Miller’s Funeral Parlor in the hopes that someone could identify her.  Thousands viewed the body, but it wasn’t until the next day that a local butcher recognized the deceased as that of May Hawes, daughter of Richard and Emma Hawes.

During the following inquest, conflicting reports arose. While many witnesses believed that Emma was Richard’s wife, several witnesses swore that Richard Hawes was divorced and had left for Columbus, Mississippi to marry again. Fannie Bryant, the woman that worked in the Hawes household, stated that on the weekend before May’s body was found, she saw Richard and May help Emma pack for a trip to Atlanta to retrieve youngest son Willie, who was staying with Richard’s family at the time.

After the inquest adjourned, a telegram was delivered to the Weekly Age-Herald office announcing Hawes’ marriage to the former Mayes Story in Mississippi that very afternoon. It also listed their train itinerary from Columbus, Mississippi to Atlanta, Georgia. When the train made a stop at the Birmingham station, police officers boarded and arrested Hawes for murder. According to the Age-Herald reporter on the scene, Hawes “asked no questions as to which of his children he was accused of having murdered, nor did he express any desire to see the remains. About all that he said on the way to the jail was that he was innocent.”

In custody, Hawes pleaded his innocence and wrote beseeching letters to his new bride asking forgiveness for claiming to be a widower and not mentioning having a daughter. To police, he claimed to have completed his divorce to Emma, citing her frequent infidelity, and arranged for the care of his daughters, though no record was ever found. Hawes told an Age-Herald reporter that he had last seen May three days before her body was discovered.

On Friday, December 7, during a long day of questioning, Mayes Story Hawes admitted that Richard told her he was divorced and had only one male child.  In a letter he wrote to her from jail, Richard told her that he never mentioned May because she would be in a convent, and he did not want to trouble his new bride.  Irene was never mentioned.

Hawe’s youngest child, Willie, continued to remain safely in Atlanta with Richard’s brother, Jim.  Birmingham police began searching for Emma and Irene.  After the discovery of a bloody hatchet and a torn ribbon, investigators focused their search on Lakeview Park, where, on December 8, after dragging the lake, they discovered Emma Hawes’s bruised and battered body, weighted down with iron.

As the news spread through the city on December 8, a mob of 1,000 to 3,000 people, many of whom had been spending their off day in Birmingham’s taverns, headed toward the Jefferson County Jail. Sheriff Joseph S. Smith issued shotguns and rifles to his Deputies and placed them in positions where they could protect the jail. He told them to fire into the mob if they came across the alley towards the jail door.

When the huge mob appeared near the alley, Sheriff Smith ordered them to stop and counted to five. The mob ignored the warnings and continued across the alley. Smith then gave the order to fire. Ten died in the violence, including postmaster Maurice Throckmorton, a deputy U. S. Marshal, a civil engineer and a painter. Smith and Police chief O. A. Pickard were both placed under arrest the next day as the state militia restored order. Governor Thomas Seay came to Birmingham to discuss resurrecting the city’s soiled reputation in the wake of these horrific events.  Smith and Pickard were released the next year following a deadlocked jury.

After the riotous group marched on the city jail, outraged by the horror of these murders, a renewed effort was made to find Irene Hawes.  After repeated draggings of the lake turned up nobody, the lake was drained.  On the third day of draining, Irene’s body was found about thirty feet from where her mothers was, also weighted down.  Irene’s body was taken from the pavilion directly to the city cemetery, where she was immediately interred.  The Baist Property Atlas, which was published in 1902, shows a lake at that location, so apparently, the lake was refilled.  It is unclear when the lake was drained permanently.  Highland Park Golf Course opened in 1903 on the location of the lake.

After a trial in which the defense relied solely upon the testimony of Richard Hawes, the jury, composed entirely of middle to upper-class white males aged 28 to 47 deliberated for fifty-five minutes and decided upon the death penalty on May 3, 1889. The defense submitted several appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court, but all were denied. During this time, a request from a St. Louis circus owner to display the caged murderer in his sideshow was rejected.

During Hawes’ last month in jail, he apparently admitted to his brother Jim and a guard that he had paid an associate, John Wylie, to commit the murders. He told the guard that he initially wanted Wylie to kill only Emma and Irene, but when it appeared that May might know some information about the murder, Hawes decided to intoxicate May and drown her at East Lake Park. When the guard made this confession public, Hawes denied it. No other evidence emerged.

Hawes was executed by Sheriff Smith on February 28, 1890. The gallows platform was constructed for the occasion by J. A. Griffith, who had also served on Hawes’ jury. Tickets to the spectacle were trading on the street for as much as $200. After a prayer, Smith counted to three and pulled the lever, dropping the platform. Hawes was buried by his brother, Jim, in an unmarked grave in the family’s plot at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. No words were spoken over the grave.

Fannie Bryant and her companion, Albert Patterson were also sentenced to death for their role in aiding Hawes. Bryant died in a prison riot before the sentence was carried out, and Patterson won a reduced sentence for testifying for the state. John Wylie was later brought to trial for the murders of Irene and Emma, but due to lack of evidence, the case was dismissed.

Emma, Irene, and May Hawes are buried next to each other in unmarked graves at Oak Hill Cemetery. It is unknown as to what became of Willie Hawes, though it is generally thought that Richard’s brother Jim continued to care for him in Atlanta.

LAKEVIEW ENTERTAINMENT

During its heyday, Lakeview made headlines for more than murder and intrigue.  The Lakeview Theatre, a covered stage for open-air concert and performances, opened in Lakeview Park in November 1890 with a performance by Mrs. General Thom Thumb and Her Japanese Troupe.  The following summer, a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s J.M.S. Pinafore was staged on a replica ship floating in the lake, which was surrounded by electric lights.

The resort’s centerpiece was the Lakeview Pavilion, featuring a swimming pool in the basement beneath a dance floor, a skating rink and a bowling alley.

 

821_Lakeview_Park_1892_copy

 

Lakeview_boat_house

The Lakeview Baseball Park also called Lakeview Park home.  Perhaps the most important event that occurred at Lakeview Park, however, was not a baseball game but rather the first football game between the University of Alabama and the Agricultural and Mechanical College (Auburn University), which occurred on February 22, 1893.

 

lakeview-football-game

 

AlabamaAuburn1893

Many arrived in Lakeview via the Highland Avenue and Belt Railroad, which put several extra cars into service for the event.  Others came by foot, horseback or in buggies.  One estimate of the attendance was five thousand people and the gate receipts were said to total between $1,200 and $1,500.  Auburn won the fame, 32-22.  Sadly this would be the only game to be played at Lakeview, and the series did not return to Birmingham until 1902.

By 1891, it had become obvious that while the park was extremely popular, the Lakeview Hotel could no longer compete with other resort hotels in the state.  There were no mineral waters to interest the sick such as those found in places like Blount Springs.  Also, the Lakeview Hotel and Park was only intended to serve as a resort during the summer months.  The hotel’s doors closed for good on August 21, 1891.

Later that year, Dr. H.M. Caldwell, President of the Elyton Land Company, invited Hawthorne College of Florence to move to Birmingham and occupy the Lakeview Hotel building.  The school became a ladies seminary under the name of the Southern Female University.  Sadly, on December 6, 1893, the building burned down.

The Lakeview pavilion was torn down to build the Highland Park Golf Course in 1900.  The Lakeview entertainment district retains the name of the park to this day.  A section of the former baseball field was preserved as a grassy corner outside the BBVA Compass Bank administrative headquarters, with a historical marker describing the first Alabama-Auburn game.

Posted by: sharviel on August 13, 2018
Posted in: Uncategorized