Calera is located in southern Shelby County in the central part of the state. Waymond Lane “Hut” Stricklin, a member of the so-called “Alabama Gang” of NASCAR drivers and son-in-law of Donnie Allison, is a native of Calera.
Vulcan Materials Blasting in Calera First settled in the early 1820s, the area now known as Calera remained relatively undeveloped until the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad came through between 1854 and 1855. The city was initially known as Buxahatchie until it became a center of lime production (a calcium-based mineral) during the Civil War, after which it was known variously as Limeville, Lime Kilns, Lime City, and Lime Station. The city suffered little damage itself during the war, so when railroad lines were repaired after the conflict ended, Calera was able to resume shipping lime all over the country. In 1869, the town’s name was changed to Calera, which is the Spanish word for “lime.”
Lime production continued to be the city’s primary industry after the war. In the 1870s, the town attempted to establish a “colony” of Scandinavian or German immigrants, much as Cullman, Cullman County, had done with German immigrants. The attempt met with little success. In the mid-1880s, a group of Montgomery businessmen formed the Calera Land Company and bought large tracts of land to develop the area like Birmingham, Jefferson County. Although the effort never came close to matching Birmingham’s growth, some new businesses were established. By 1885, Calera’s population had increased to more than 200, the city had its first public school, and a number of hotels were opened. The city petitioned for incorporation in 1885, and the first municipal elections took place in 1887.
Calera has benefitted from the growth in population and businesses moving south from Birmingham that began in the late twentieth century. The city remains a major producer of lime, shipping primarily to the southeastern United States.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Calera recorded a population of 14,327. Of that number, 66.0 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 27.5 percent as African American, 5.4 percent as Hispanic, 1.2 percent as two or more races, and 0.6 percent as Asian. The city’s median household income was $68,171, and per capita income was $29,547.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Calera was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (18.8 percent)
- Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (13.4 percent)
- Retail trade (12.9 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (9.4 percent)
- Manufacturing (8.2 percent)
- Public administration (7.3 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.0 percent)
- Construction (6.8 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing and utilities (6.2 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (4.3 percent)
- Wholesale trade (2.7 percent)
- Information (2.5 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.4 percent)
Schools in Calera are part of the Shelby County School District; the town has one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. The University of Montevallo is located about seven miles west of the city.
Interstate 65 is located one mile east of Calera and runs north-south. The city is bisected by U.S. Highway 31 running north-south and State Highway 25 running east-west. The Shelby County airport has one runway and is located about eight miles north of Calera.
Events and Places of Interest
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum Calera has two large municipal parks that include a football field, baseball fields, basketball courts, playgrounds, a nature trail, walking tracks, and pavilions. The city also has a one-acre arboretum. The Calera Community Center has space that may be rented for private functions. The Calera Downtown Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, Calera Presbyterian Church, the Carter Residence, and the Cowart Drug Store are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum features both standard-gauge and narrow-gauge trains, two restored depots, and collections of railroad cars, locomotives, and artifacts. In April 2011, Calera held its first annual Strawberry Festival, an outreach of the Calera Farmers Market. The festival attracted some 35 vendors and between 1,500-2,000 visitors. The Farmers Market is held June through August on Tuesday afternoons and features fresh local produce.
Shelby County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Shelby County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
Roberts, Barbara Baker. Early History of Calera, Alabama. Montevallo, Ala.: Times Printing Co., 1970.