The site of present-day Tuscaloosa was inhabited at various times by local Native American peoples since at least 1580. The first white settler in the area was Thomas York, who arrived with his family in 1816. As other settlers from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia moved to the area by way of former Indian trails, the city of Tuscaloosa was incorporated and made the county seat on December 13, 1819, a day before Alabama was admitted to the Union. A delay in the laying out of Tuscaloosa resulted in the removal of the county seat just a few miles to the west to New Town in 1822. By 1826, however, New Town had been incorporated into Tuscaloosa, thus enabling Tuscaloosa to regain its position as county seat.
It took until the early twentieth century for Tuscaloosa to recover from the physical and economic ruin brought to it by the Civil War. By then, it had become a leading population and educational center in the state. Of great assistance to Tuscaloosa's recovery was a new system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River, constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890s, that provided the city with an outlet to Mobile's seaport. As the University of Alabama and the mental-healthcare facilities associated with Bryce Hospital continued to expand, Tuscaloosa prospered into the twentieth century. In the latter part of the century, Tuscaloosa attracted such large manufacturing firms as Michelin and JVC before being chosen by Mercedes-Benz in 1993 to launch Alabama into the automotive industry.
According to the 2010 Census Tuscaloosa's population was 90,486. Of that total, was 53.8 percent identified themselves as white, 41.5 as African American, 3.0 percent as Hispanic, 1.8 percent as Asian, and 1.1 percent as two or more races. The city's median household income was $85,179, and per capita income was $34,268.
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (11.4 percent)
· Retail trade (10.3 percent)
· Manufacturing (8.4 percent)
· Construction (7.9 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (6.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (5.2 percent)
· Public administration (4.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (3.8 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.4 percent)
· Information (3.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.7 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.5 percent)
The Tuscaloosa city school system consists of 12 elementary schools, five middle schools, and five high schools, with a total of approximately 10,000 students and about 1,300 employees. Tuscaloosa remains the home for the University of Alabama (UA), the state's first college. With an enrollment approaching 25,000, UA is the state's largest institution of higher education. Tuscaloosa is also home to historically black Stillman College, a four-year liberal-arts institution, as well as to Shelton State Community College, a two-year college providing educational opportunities in both academic and technical career fields.
Tuscaloosa is serviced by a network of highways and roadways, including Interstate 20/59; Interstate 359, a spur northward off of I-20/59 into downtown Tuscaloosa; U.S. Highways 11, 43, and 82; and Alabama Highways 69, 215, and 216. The Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, located across the Black Warrior River near Northport, is a general aviation airport used primarily for airfreight and private air traffic. Amtrak's Crescent line also provides Tuscaloosa with a connection by rail to cities from New York to New Orleans. The Black Warrior River supports barge river traffic transporting goods to the Alabama State Docks in Mobile. The city also has an outlet to the Ohio River valley by means of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
Events and Places of Interest
One of the area's oldest structures is the Old Tavern. Built in 1827 during Tuscaloosa's reign as state capital, the building originally served as a tavern and hotel on a stagecoach route through town. It is now a museum that informs visitors about early Tuscaloosa commercial architecture and also serves as the headquarters for the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society. The second oldest surviving structure in the area was built in 1828 to serve as a dining hall on the campus of the University of Alabama. Now known as the Gorgas House, it survived the Civil War and served as the home of Josiah Gorgas, a former chief of the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and seventh president of the university. Other historic architectural attractions on the UA campus include Denny Chimes, the President's Mansion, the Observatory, the Old Quadrangle, and Jason's Shrine, formerly the cadet guard house.
The Heritage of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.