The Ballard House, constructed in the first half of the 20th century in Birmingham as a medical office and residence (one of few surviving live-work structures) for Dr. Edward H. Ballard and his family. Built on the foundation of Ballard’s previous home/office, dating back to 1908, the current building was designed and completed by African-American contractor Leroy Gaillord in 1940. The history of the building and the surrounding community is rich. It includes serving as a meeting place for the civic, service, and social networking of African-American organizations in Birmingham who were barred from gathering in so many areas of the city. That heritage also encompasses the legacy of African-American physicians, such as Dr. Ballard, Dr. Dodson Curry and Dr. Herschell Hamilton, and Dr. Ross Gardner, among many others.
The history that took place within this building was made possible by the following individuals who occupied this special place:
Dr. Edward H. Ballard
Dr. Herschell Hamilton
E. H. Ballard, MD
Having been constructed as a family residence and medical office in 1940 by Dr. Edward Ballard, a successful African-American Birmingham physician, the Ballard House was situated among a host of thriving, Black businesses throughout this Birmingham, Alabama, community enclave. The existing structure was built by Leroy S. Gaillard, an African-American contractor, upon the foundation of the family’s former home and medical office.
The Ballard family’s former live-work residence, existing on the same property foundation. Built between 1899 and 1915, it was owned by other families before it became the live-work residence of Dr. and Mrs. Ballard in the late 1920’s.
Mrs. Jessie Perkins (Ma Perkins)
After Dr. Ballard moved his family to California in the early 1950’s, the property was acquired by Jesse Perkins and served as the “hotspot for civic meetings and social events” in the 1950’s, 60’s, and well into the 70’s.
Mrs. Perkins was an African-American woman of color and entrepreneur who made a significant economic and cultural impact well before her time.
As a result of segregation in Birmingham, which made many places off limits to the “Negro” population, the Ballard House became a significant and pivotal gathering and meeting place for the community of color, and a central backdrop for the chartering and meeting of numerous African‐American clubs and community organizations.
Before the opening of the A.G. Gaston Motel, the Ballard House was considered one of few destinations for boarding visiting Black entertainers and musicians, as well as for hosting receptions, teas, and holiday parties in the Black community.
Dodson Curry, MD
The Ballard House first floor medical office space was leased by Mrs. Perkins to Dr. Dodson Curry in the early 1950’s and then to Dr. Herschell Lee Hamilton in the late 1950’s.
Herschell L. Hamilton, MD
As a physician, trained at Meharry Medical College and Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Herschell Lee Hamilton was the first board certified, African-American general surgeon to practice at UAB and in Alabama.
Arriving in Birmingham in 1959, Dr. Herschell L. Hamilton set up his medical practice at the Ballard House. He devoted himself to his patients and to the cause of equal rights. Dr. Hamilton was beloved for his acts of humanitarianism, treating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and numerous foot soldiers injured during the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement marches and demonstrations.
Because of his skill and dedication to the fight for Civil Rights, Dr. Hamilton quickly became known throughout Birmingham and Alabama as “Battle Surgeon” and “The Dog Bite Doctor.” He also supported the Movement generously with his personal resources.
The Ballard House continued its legacy, rapidly becoming a designated meeting space to discuss strategy for those involved in the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham.
The Hamilton family later purchased the Ballard House from Mrs. Perkins.
As a practicing general surgeon for more than 40 years, Dr. Hamilton continued his commitment to his community by treating patients and mentoring young African-American physicians in a successful medical practice at The Ballard House.