In the early 1920s, a few wealthy pioneers were brave enough to build their homes along the narrow, steep and curvy dirt road, which connected Birmingham to the capital seat in Montgomery. A few even enjoyed estates on the crest of Shades Mountain. One early resident, George Battey Ward, built a home on the crest to resemble the Temple of “Vest Via” in Rome. He named his home Vestavia, or “home by the way.” He also added a garden gazebo, a replica of the Temple of Sibyl at Tivoli. After Ward’s death in 1940, Charles Byrd bought his estate and began his own development on the mountain, renaming it Vestavia Hills. Following World War II, the planned community of Vestavia Hills enjoyed a housing boom and Montgomery Highway was converted into a paved, four-lane highway. The Temple of Sibyl gazebo still guards the entrance to Vestavia Hills only it was moved to the north entrance where Shades Crest Road and the Montgomery Highway intersect.
Modern Vestavia Hills offers residents a vast array of top-notch services, recreation and amenities. Recreational facilities were first built in Wald Park and have expanded into several beautiful area parks complete with sports programs and playing fields. The Civic Center complex also features a recreational center and a public library. Nearby Oak Mountain State Park is Alabama’s largest with almost 10,000 acres of mountains, lakes and forests for every outdoor pastime imaginable.
Vestavia Hills City Schools serve over 4,400 students. Standardized test scores consistently rank the district either first or second among all school systems in Alabama. Redbook magazine named Vestavia High School the best high school in the state. It is well known for its math and debate teams as well as for its excellent sports program in football, baseball, basketball, and golf.
Vestavia Hills' convenient proximity to Birmingham provides area residents with a full-spectrum of arts, culture and professional sports. Several popular nearby museums include, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the McWayne Center (a state-of-the-art science museum), Southern Museum of Flight and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The arts are well represented by the Alabama Symphony, Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Birmingham City Stages and the Alabama Theater. College football takes center stage in the Birmigham sports category with the University of Alabama and Auburn University games/teams being the primary focus. NASCAR racing is featured in Talladega which is a 45 minute drive from Vestavia.
With the acceleration of growth on both sides of Montgomery Highway, Vestavia Hills continues to expand. In 2002, residents in the Cahaba Heights area voted to become a part of Vestavia thus linking Vestavia proper to the planned unit development of Liberty Park. Liberty Park, Vestavia, is a long term project which includes the office complex in the Urban Center and the upscale residential subdivisions of Old Overton (gated) and Vestlake Village.
Vestavia is a suburban gateway to a major metropolitan area, which is resplendent in the beauty of its natural surroundings. Add rolling hills, excellent schools, blooming dogwoods, affordable housing and numerous amenities, and it equals a very desirable standard of living.
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