By Brenda Ladun
Photos by James and Rachel Culver
Class and history are the heartbeat of the Hollywood section of Homewood. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Nestled on the east side of Homewood, if you drive along Bonita Drive your eyes are drawn to the Spanish-style white stucco homes capped with orange tile roofs, while Tudor-style homes are sprinkled in.
The pristine lawns and flowering foliage, are as eye catching as the architecture itself.
Those shopping for homes will wait for an opportunity to snap up one of these historic homes, while many of those living there own some of the Birmingham-metro area’s most historical homes.
On Bonita Drive, you will find the connective tissue of the neighborhood is the love of history and community. It’s magnificent with each house owning its own individual character and charm. Some love it for the look and others love for the history.
Many love the area for both aspects.
Bill Ballard has been a longtime homeowner on Bonita Drive.
He’s owned his house at 118 Bonita Drive for the better part of 16 years and says the convenience and charm attracted him to his house. The rich history and unique architecture also are reasons he fell in love with the street.
“It makes me feel like I am a part of history and I have a responsibility to preserve it,” Ballard says. “People who buy these historic homes, they never really own them. They are caretakers passing through an important part of our history.”
His home was built by J.F. Day, who established a successful high-end window company still operating in Birmingham.
If you use your imagination to listen beyond the fast-paced sounds of the present day hustle and bustle, which includes traffic rushing by on U.S. 280, you can almost hear the echoes of a time gone by.
The early beginning of what we know as Homewood today started in the early 1920s.
At that time, the sounds of hammers pounding nails into wood and construction filled the air. It was the sound of a new beginning and hope. The homes were built with the finest quality of hardwood floors, bricks and stucco to withstand the next hundred years.
Part of the fresh new builds included something rarely used today—honeycomb brick. It was a staple of building many homes in Hollywood and what makes the district so special today.
Designed to keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it is a brick with holes inside each brick that looks like an actual Honeycomb.
The real stucco on the exterior of many homes on Bonita Drive only adds the charm of the area. With loving care from the homeowners, the houses have not only survived the test of time, but have thrived in doing so.
Bonita Drive is a revered community where homeowners consider their abodes the jewels of Homewood.
Location, location, location—that is one of the big drawing cards for Homewood and especially the Hollywood portion of the city. It is only 10 minutes from Birmingham and 10 minutes to the edge of Hoover.
The convenience of being able to walk to nearby restaurants on a warm summers night also reminds residents of a time past.
Most of these historic homes have been renovated to restore and improve on the charm of the Spanish-style stucco homes or the English Tudors.
The Hollywood Country Club established in 1926 consisted of a pool and a dinner club. There were plans for a golf course surrounding it that never came to fruition, so the pool became a centerpiece for the community.
The sounds of splashing and children laughing at the country club swimming pool was the start of a pleasant community.
For 40 cents a day, children who were not members could swim.
Then there was the music. The jazz music of the famous Cab Calloway rising from the stage in front of the glass dance floor was a true gem.
The club evolved through the 1970s until it gave up the ghost declining into disrepair and finally sold to make way for the brick and mortar Courtyard Marriott, which stands on the grounds today, replacing the elegant Flemish Modern style Hollywood Country Club building which once graced the community.
The club was part of the vision of Clyde Nelson, a developer who profited from the flight of Birmingham residents during the cholera outbreak of 1873.
Many Birmingham residents became very ill and many died. That’s when there was a flight of residents from the city to the heavily-wooded area now known as Homewood.
Afraid of the sickness in Birmingham water, hundreds fled from the city for a fresh new start. An added bonus to these grand homes is the community surrounding it.
They are within a short walk to Demetri’s BBQ, Jinsei, or perhaps just a burger at jacks.
Bonita Drive is also within walking distance to quaint and posh shops and gourmet restaurants in Mountain Brook as well as the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Birmingham Zoo.
Whether it’s the beautiful majestic look of the homes on Bonita Drive, the chance to be a part of history or the convenient location, more home buyers are snapping up an opportunity to be a part of the historic Hollywood area along Bonita Drive.