The Development of the Community of Midfield
It is said that Alendale Land Co. of Birmingham, could be credited with foreseeing the possibility of developing a good residential section there. John J. Walker subdivided the land for Allendale Land Company and it was he who named the place Midfield. An ad in the Birmingham News, September 26, 1926 by J. Walker Realty Company said, “Midfield, the new city, halfway between Birmingham and Bessemer. Drive out today and follow the arrows. Lots priced from $1,000 to $2,000 at terms, 10 percent down, balance two percent a month at six percent interest.” The old land office built in 1929, on what is now the corner of Woodward Rd. and B.Y.Williams Sr. Dr., later became Charlie Laraca’s grocery store, then Sailor Watkins’ (ex-wrestler) restaurant, then B.Y.Williams’ toy store, and then the first Midfield City Hall.
Shortly after Midfield was laid out into streets, the nation was hit by the worst financial depression that America has ever experienced. Property sales, like everything else, came to a standstill. Not until about twelve years later did Belcher Building Corporation, owned by lumberman W. Albert Belcher, buy about 700 acres in and around Midfield. There were about thirty houses standing there at the time. Belcher built about 450 new houses in the area. Plans were for more houses to be built by individuals, but World War II came and building materials could not be had at any cost.
The Super Highway from Bessemer to Birmingham also had a positive effect upon the Midfield area. Designed after the Audibon in Germany, it was the first fully lighted, four lane highway in Alabama. The highway was first surveyed and started prior to the depression but it took a number of years for the funds to become available for it’s completion. When it was finally opened in the early 40’s it came complete with it’s own Wigwam Tourist Court nestled beside Valley Creek, and also had Alabama’s first drive in movie, Auto Drive In No. 1. A short time later, Iralee and W.E. Benns came to Midfield and built radio station W.V.O.K. It became Alabama’s most powerful station featuring Joe Rumore, who later purchased the station from the Benns family. Mr. Benns was an architect and Mrs. Benns taught math for a while at McAdory School. They designed and built their own home in Midfield and became respected citizens of the community. They were major contributers to the new city. A Baseball field in the Midfield Municipal Park is named after the Benns.
The war meant a loss of manpower as men went off to fight, and this period caused several years of anxiety for Midfield and the rest of the nation as well. There was a tremendous shortage of housing as new brides and small children doubled up with their families. After the war the Belcher Corp. took over, and extensive housing construction was begun. The Midfield Civitan Club was formed to protect the rights and restrictions of the citizens, and to encourage a closer fraternization of all residents. The following account by Floyd Davis Sr., tells of the role that the Civitan Club played in the incorporation of the City of Midfield.