It’s called the safest city in the state

The former town hall in Helena, Alabama - Melissa Parker
The former town hall in Helena, Alabama - Melissa Parker

Helena – Helena is a small city and is one of three (Alabaster and Pelham being the other two) that make up the area known as “North Shelby County,” but it is considered to be a suburb of Birmingham. The estimated population is 11,000 and Helena is highly regarded as a place to raise children (named the 13th “Best Place to Raise Your Kids”) by “Business Week.”

Helena was not the original name of the city. In 1849 it was known as the town of Cove, then the name was changed to Hillsboro in 1856. When the railroads came to the area during the reconstruction period after the Civil War, an engineer named Pete Boyle came to survey the land. After completing a new train station near Hillsboro, Boyle named it “Helena Station” after his sweetheart, Helen Lee. Helen was the daughter of a local judge.

The town began to grow and absorbed Hillsboro, and then it officially incorporated as the city of Helena. A steel mill was reopened, coal mines prospered, boarding houses, hotels, and a school opened, and it became a booming little metropolis until about 1920. At that time the coal mines closed and the steel company moved to Birmingham. Unemployment was rampant and people had to move elsewhere to find work.

They felt the hardships of the depression and in 1933 a tornado destroyed what was left of Helena. Thirteen people were killed, many were injured, and over a hundred houses were demolished. But, none of the aforementioned devastations could keep this tiny city down for long. They gradually rebuilt, all working together for one goal – to begin anew. By the early 21st century Helena experienced growing pains and population gains as a result of its convenient location and high quality of life.

Buck Creek is located in Helena and also passes through Pelham and Alabaster. The bridge nearby and the water flowing over the Lake Davidson dam is visually charming and quaint, as if suitable for a painting. Fishing and canoeing are enjoyed there and even a Buck Creek Festival is held in the summertime, featuring musical concerts, vendors, and an art contest. An outdoor amphitheater is located on the banks of the creek.

Today there is no dominant employer in the city so most of the residents of Helena commute to work in other cities within the greater Birmingham area. The Welcome Center is located in an L&N Railroad caboose and on Main Street (called Old Town) there is an array of specialty shops filled with unique gifts housed in restored turn-of-the-century buildings. You can even marry there because the Helena Wedding Chapel can handle a party of a hundred people indoors and also has a wedding planner available for receptions.

Article by Melissa Parker

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