A couple of weekends ago was the Birmingham Membership Alliance Day, where various museums and theaters throughout the city allow reciprocating access to members of other museums and theaters. We have memberships at the Birmingham Zoo and the McWane Science Center, so we figured we'd use the opportunity to visit one of Birmigham's other sites, Vulcan.
Vulcan Park and Museum is a tribute to Birmingham's history in the steel industry. The statue of Vulcan, god of the forge, stands atop Red Mountain, overlooking the city of Birmingham. For those of you interested a detailed history, take a peek at the Vulcan website. For those of you who don't want to click away from these beautiful smiling faces, here is my executive summary:
Birmingham was founded in 1871. The area where the city grew is very special because it contains coal, iron ore, and limestone, the raw materials for making iron and steel. Birmingham's founders knew this would be a good place to build an industrial city. By 1900, Birmingham was called the "Magic City" because it grew so quickly. The city's leaders wanted to advertise Birmingham and the state of Alabama to the world by entering an exhibit in the St. Louis World's Fair. James A. MacKnight, the manager of the Alabama State Fair, decided a statue of Vulcan would best highlight the area's growing industrial abilities.
. . .
Designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti and cast from local iron in 1904, it has overlooked the urban landscape of Alabama's largest city.
. . .
The statue proved to be a very popular exhibit and won the Grand Prize [at the St. Louis World's Fair] . . .
In 1905, when the World's Fair had ended, Vulcan was taken apart and brought by train back to Birmingham. . . . he finally wound up at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. . . . Merchants began to use him for advertising, and over the years he held various objects, such as a giant ice cream cone, a pickle sign, and a Coke bottle. Later he wore a giant pair of Liberty overalls. In the 1930s he was repainted in flesh tones.
. . .
In May 1939, Vulcan, now painted with aluminum paint, was finally in his new home in Vulcan Park, atop Red Mountain. The hollow statue was filled with concrete to help anchor it in place. In 1946, some safety-minded citizens decided Vulcan should remind everyone to drive carefully. Instead of his newly forged spear, he now held a cone-shaped, lighted beacon. This signal glowed green on days no one was killed in an auto accident and red on days when there was a fatality.
I suppose it is a tribute to how long I've been in Birmingham because I can remember going up in Vulcan prior to 1999 and also remember when they took him down for safety reasons. For a while there, it seemed like no one was willing to put any money into restoring Vulcan. Eventually they did, but I wonder what Vulcan's fate would have been if they had to do the repairs in 2009 instead of 1999. . . Maybe he could have gotten some of that fictional dome money.