When Col. James Withers Sloss helped move the railroad to a fledgling steel town in Alabama in the late 1800s, he put Birmingham on the path to becoming a powerful economic engine for the state. A century and a half later, the Sloss family still has an important influence on the development of the Magic City.
Building Birmingham: The Sloss Story, a new documentary produced by Jacksonville State University’s Longleaf Studios, tells this generational tale. The film premieres Thursday, January 19 at 8 p.m. on Alabama Public Television
Cathy Sloss Jones, President and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, said, “We are honored to have Alabama Public Television and Jacksonville State University tell our story. Our corporate mission is simple and has remained constant: to enhance Birmingham, repurpose its best assets and attract people to the city centre. We firmly believe in the potential of Alabama and are proud to continue the work to connect and strengthen our communities.”
Sloss Real Estate’s ongoing impact and development efforts are focused on connecting neighborhoods along Birmingham’s Central Corridor to draw people downtown. Projects like Sloss Docks, Pepper Place and Lakeview – all areas bordering downtown along the Jones Valley Trail – encourage traffic and pedestrian flow into downtown Birmingham.
“Having known the Sloss sisters and their parents for over 30 years, it was concerning that so many people think of Sloss as a place and not a family,” said Pete Conroy, APT board member. “This documentary makes it clear; It’s both. And, wow, what an influential family it still is.”
Limestone County native James Withers Sloss (1820-1890) was an industrialist who directed the early development of Birmingham, founding Sloss Furnaces in 1881. (From the Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library Archives)
Cathy Sloss Jones will moderate the panel discussion at the Women’s History Month 2019 breakfast. The Sloss family has played an important role in Birmingham for 150 years. (Wynter Byrd/Alabama News Center)
Most people in Birmingham know Sloss Furnaces as a place, but not everyone knows the history of the family behind it. (Contribution)
Pepper Place is one of Sloss Real Estate’s major successes in Birmingham’s Urban Centre. (File)
Executive Producer Seth Johnson said, “Working on the documentary about the Sloss family was a rewarding experience that allowed us all to gain insight into the significant impact this family has had on Birmingham and the surrounding area.”
Upon public release on January 19, the full documentary will be available at aptv.org/watch, on PBS.org, and on the PBS Video App.