Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Hoover History Book
Pamela King, left, and Carolyn Kolar hold an aerial photo of the early development of Hoover inside the Hoover Historical Society’s archives.
When Hoover celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, it won’t be just another milestone. UAB history professor and author Pamela King said most historians consider a place historic once it reaches that 50-year marker.
In advance of this important date, the Hoover Historical Society is beginning work on its 50th anniversary book about the city. The society has hired King to dig through the archives and piece together the story of the city that grew out of a Birmingham suburb.
“When people think of Hoover, they think new, and they think suburb and they think ‘What is Hoover?’ That’s my perception being out in the community,” King said. “So one thing that fascinates me about Hoover is trying to understand what it is … what drives it, what holds it together.”
The book is going to focus particularly on the past 25 years, since the HHS created a book celebrating the city’s first 25 years, but King said the entire history will be included.
Carolyn Kolar, the HHS president, said they are finding old maps and articles to write the book, but they also have a unique opportunity to interview some of the earliest residents.
King and the society have talked to former mayors, early developers and the city’s first fire chief, among others.
“You can ask them what they were thinking, what they did, what the biggest controversies were – obstacles, successes, regrets – from the people who have actually been on the ground doing it,” King said.
As they research, King said she is particularly interested in the personality of Hoover and how it quickly distinguished itself from the city of Birmingham. Within a diverse city, King said she has discovered a consistent sense of pragmatism and a desire to provide the best quality of life for its residents. And, Kolar added, community involvement.
“[Hoover] doesn’t seem to let itself get derailed by newness, change. It’s really adaptable,” King said. “From what I can gather, the people that live here love it here.”
The paths of interstates and highways out of Birmingham shaped the expansion of Hoover from the beginning. King said Hoover is unique because, unlike many cities, it does not have a definable town center.
“Hoover doesn’t exist without transportation. It is a child of interstates, basically, and of course commerce. So development is its story,” King said.
When Hoover became large enough to begin experiencing “big city problems” such as traffic, commerce and immigration, King said her research shows the city adapted well.
“It seems to me that Hoover has moved through all of those things pretty sanely,” King said.
As King and historical society members explore their archives, they’re not just looking for information from the early years. Recent changes, such as Hoover’s adoption of highly planned neighborhoods such as the Preserve and Greystone, are just as much part of the city’s story.
“Hoover keeps up,” King said.
The book is planned to come out in 2017, and King said there will be pictures and maps to accompany the narrative. Kolar said celebration plans have not been made yet, but the 25th anniversary was a big deal, and she expects the same for Hoover’s 50th year.
Kolar said she wants this book and the 50th anniversary to bring new members to the HHS and new contributions to their archives, as readers “will realize that we’re making history, it’s important to preserve the history.”
“Just because they’re recent doesn’t mean they have no value,” Kolar said.
Keep up with the historical society’s activities at hooverhistoricalsociety.org.