Quinlan Castle – Birmingham, Alabama - Atlas Obscura

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Quinlan Castle

A castle-inspired apartment building that has stood in Birmingham since 1927.  

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Sorry, Quinlan Castle is permanently closed.

The Quinlan Castle is a medieval-style four-story apartment building built in Birmingham, Alabama in 1927. Its name comes from the former name of 9th Avenue South, Quinlan Avenue. The street was named after Bishop Quinlan, who bought the land where the structure stands to use as the grounds of Birmingham’s first Catholic church. 

Quinlan Castle was designed by William Welton, who was inspired by European castles that he saw during World War I. During World War II, the building was rumored to have been a stronghold for Nazi spies or communists. The building was raided by the Birmingham police but they found little evidence supporting the theories. After such negative publicity, the castle was renamed the Royal Arms Apartments, with the slogan “living quarters fit for a king.”

In 1984, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places and then in 1993, the city of Birmingham took ownership of the building. The castle was cleaned and refurbished, and a decorative seal was added to the south-facing side of the castle. The seal states its name and the year it was built with two lions fighting each other. Artistic details can be seen in the beautiful arch-topped windows, the battlement topping each wall and the tall round turrets in each corner. Two of the towers house small, black cannons and may be visible with keen eyesight. The castle has noticeable bright red doors that stand out not only because of their color, but also because they have no handles.

Sadly, the castle has been vacant since around the mid to late 1990s and the inside is not open to the public. A black fence surrounds half of the perimeter but the castle is still visible. There have been a number of proposals made since 1999 in an attempt to use the building for things such as student dorms, condos, luxury apartments, and short-term housing for patients and their families with the last recorded proposal being made in 2007. A local elementary school class even wrote letters to the Birmingham News proposing other uses for the building such as a movie theater, animal shelter, library, antique shop, and a hotel. Sadly, all of these proposals have been declined.

In 2021, Southern Research, the current owners, have requested and received permission to demolish the building and build a new laboratory on the site.

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