Birmingham’s Charles Linn and his fallen statue

State / Regional

A statue of Birmingham businessman Charles Linn lying in Linn Park after being pulled down during a protest Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Courtesy of Landon Wexler)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As protesters gathered in Linn Park Sunday night, it didn’t take long for many of them to try and take down Confederate monuments and statues in the park.

While the 52-foot-tall Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument was chipped away with hammers and rocks, it still stood. However, what the group did take down and deface was a statue of Charles Linn that had stood in the park since 2013.

But who was Charles Linn?

Courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library

According to the website for Birmingham’s Oak Hill Cemetery, where the Finnish-born sailor and businessman is buried, was born in 1814 and came to America in 1833. Originally born Carl Erik Engelbert Sjödahl, Linn had spent his youth as a sailor, crossing the Atlantic and back several times before he eventually became an American and settled in Montgomery in 1838. Some of his earliest work was as a matchmaker, then going into the fruit business before getting into the mercantile business, where he made his initial wealth.

During the Civil War, Linn sold his farm in Montgomery and joined the Confederate State Navy, where one of his primary duties was shipping cotton. On July 14, 1863, Linn and his son were captured as they sailed on the Kate Dale. They were taken to Washington to be tried, but were pardoned.

After his release, Linn worked in the grocery business in New Orleans before coming back to Alabama in 1871. In 1872, Linn was part of the launch of the National Bank of Birmingham, the first bank in the city. The multi-storied building where the bank was on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street was known as “Linn’s Folly.”

In 1873, Linn began serving on the Birmingham Board of Aldermen under then-mayor James Powell. After starting up Linn Iron Works and the Birmingham Car and Foundry Company, Linn died in 1883.

Linn Park was originally named Capitol Park when it was first built in the 1880s and Woodrow Wilson Park in 1918. It was renamed for Linn in 1988.


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