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Bham Development: Reviving Miss Fancy

avondale park


The specter of Miss Fancy looms large over 41st Street, where businesses like Avondale Brewing have embraced the elephant’s legend as part of their brand identity. But the one place she isn’t is Avondale Park, the very place she used to call home. A group called Save the Queen is working to change that, though, with plans to immortalize her as statue and splash pad at the park entrance.

Like Paul Bunyan or other tall tale heroes, Fancy is the stuff of folklore. That she existed is certain, but her backstory is up for debate. Whether won in a card game or simply bought from a circus — possibilities both outlined in her Bhamwiki and Trek Birmingham pages — she became a local legend at the hands of trainer Mr. Todd.

“Miss Fancy was known for her love of children and her residence in Avondale Park,” the campaign’s website explains. Because of that they envision a functional memorial that children can enjoy.  

But this isn’t simply a memorial project for Miss Fancy. It’s also become an effort to carry on the final work of Ron Council, described by AL.com as “one of Birmingham’s most enthusiastic boosters.” Council, a long-time champion development causes in the city, including the renovation of Avondale Park, began the statue campaign before his death in 2014, according to AL.com.

Council was part of the fundraising group for the Avondale Park renovation, which included a miniature Miss Fancy statue, reported Weld. But an unfortunate run-in with a drunk driver left the park Fancy-less again, according to Weld, and Council vowing to replace it with a grander version.

As Council’s son Bryan explained it to Weld, the full-scale statue would represent the neighborhood. It would be an “icon” he said. Like Five Points’ Storyteller fountain – which he cited as a possible alternative setup to the splash pad model – it would be the picture folks take to signal they’re in Avondale.

So much of the Birmingham we present to the world and to ourselves these days is about rediscovering neglected gems in our civic story. Miss Fancy made Avondale an entertainment destination once before, and she’s been a constant part of the neighborhood’s business revival story. Save the Queen campaign’s Fancy monument would create a compelling civic logo in keeping with the largely casual and kid-friendly corridor we enjoy today.