When Col. James Withers Sloss helped move the railroad to a fledgling Alabama steel town in the late 1800s, he set Birmingham on the path to becoming a powerful economic engine for the state. A century and a half later, the Sloss family continues to have an important impact on the Magic City’s development.
“Building Birmingham: The Sloss Story,” a new documentary produced by Jacksonville State University’s Longleaf Studios, tells that multigenerational story. The film premieres on Alabama Public Television on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m.
Cathy Sloss Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, said, “We are very honored for Alabama Public Television and Jacksonville State University to tell our story. Our company mission is simple and has remained constant: to lift up Birmingham, repurpose its best assets and draw individuals to the City Center. We strongly believe in Alabama’s potential and are proud to continue the work of connecting and strengthening our communities.”
Sloss Real Estate’s continued impact and development efforts focus on linking neighborhoods along Birmingham’s central corridor to draw people downtown. Projects such as Sloss Docks, Pepper Place and Lakeview – all downtown-adjacent areas 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 have come to think of Sloss as a place, instead of a family,” said Pete Conroy, a member of APT’s board of directors. “This documentary makes it clear; it is both. And, wow, what an influential family it continues to be.”
Limestone County native James Withers Sloss (1820-1890) was an industrialist who led the early development of Birmingham, founding Sloss Furnaces in 1881. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives)
Cathy Sloss Jones moderates panel discussion at the 2019 Women’s History Month breakfast. The Sloss family has played an important role in Birmingham for 150 years. (Wynter Byrd / Alabama News Center)
Most people in Birmingham are familiar with Sloss Furnaces as a place, but not everyone knows the history of the family behind it. (contributed)
Pepper Place is among the major successes of Sloss Real Estate in Birmingham’s Urban Center. (file)
Executive producer Seth Johnson said, “Working on the Sloss family documentary was a rewarding experience that allowed us all an inside look at the significant impact this family has had on Birmingham and the surrounding area.”
After the public release on Jan. 19, the full documentary will be available at aptv.org/watch, on PBS.org and the PBS Video App.