By Hillary Brody Anchill
Pat Andrews first moved to Birmingham in 1943 when she got a job as a teacher at Pierce Elementary School. At 99 years of age, she has never left the city.
In 1948, Andrews and her new husband Edward built a home on a parcel of land on Chesterfield Road in the Quarton Lake Estates neighborhood. She continues to live in that same home today. The Birmingham fire station at the end of her street wasn’t there when they first moved in, and she recalls neighbors complaining about this noisy service moving into a residential space.
Andrews taught at Quarton Elementary School in the 1960s, and Midvale in the 1970s, until retiring in 1986. As a teacher, imparting history lessons, including that of early Birmingham, was part of her curriculum. She became a member of the city’s historical society and served on its board, and has been known for decades as Birmingham’s de facto historian.
It is these remembrances of how the city and her neighborhood have evolved over more than 60 years that has made Andrews the city’s go-to historian. To further illuminate these stories, she created a museum in her garage.
“I gave up driving, and I looked one day and I thought, well here is this space.” She has since filled it with posters documenting each of the neighborhood’s homes, a project she began in 1991.
“I decided to go from the very early houses, and I documented those. I got so excited about seeing what I didn’t know about them, I thought, well, I guess I can go on. So I started and did the 20s and then the ‘30s. Now I have a page for every home in our neighborhood,” a task she completed in 2015. However, she is quick to note that she still makes updates as people move into new homes, showing that a historian’s work is never truly done.
Each of these homes has their own display in her museum, and if residents want a copy of their home’s history, she will gladly go to her computer and print off a copy. “If I’m out for a walk, I may drop it off and invite them to see my museum,” she says of those new to town. She has welcomed nearly 1,000 visitors to date.
Her neighbors give back to Andrews as well. She says the children on her block regularly play in her yard, where she could still be found raking leaves throughout the fall, and they help decorate scarecrows outside her home for the holidays. And she makes sure to keep the neighborhood businesses afloat, despite changes over the years.
“Our new market [Holiday],” which replaced the generations old Quarton Market, “said that anytime I want anything, just to call them up. I walk down when I don’t have a lot to carry back.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent