If you’ve made a trip down to Birmingham lately, you may have overlooked someone, even though he’s very visible. It’s Vulcan, god of the forge and fire – a gigantic, iron statue (the largest cast iron statue in the world). He was made for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to represent Alabama. After winning a prize, he made the trip back to the “Magic City” of Birmingham, where he stood for many years. But many of residents were ashamed of the pagan god and his nudity. Vulcan even had overalls painted on him for a while, and a bottle of Coca-Cola in his hand instead of a torch. (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/ALBIRvulcan.html). Thankfully, he’s been restored to his former glory on top of Red Mountain.
In the late ’90’s, Vulcan began deteriorating and many feared he would fall down. He had also turned a not very lovely rusted-red color. Money was raised to tear down the beloved symbol. Raising enough money to put him back up, however, was a bigger problem. When I moved to Huntsville in 2001, I had given up hoping to see him back on his pedestal. But, recently, I came back to town, and saw him standing, fully restored! (His gaudy torch has been replaced with the original spear, and he has been painted black). Vulcan Park is now open to the public.
I visited him for the second time in my life on Saturday. There is a small museum under the statue that retells Birmingham’s glory days. While looking at the exhibits, I found out that the hospital where I was born, Loyd Noland, was built by a coal company. I also filmed myself retelling my memories of Vulcan on a unique, computer exhibit. I took an elevator up to the statue (unlike the Statue of Liberty, the only statue in America larger than Vulcan, you can’t go inside the statue itself). The steel catwalk is rickety-sounding and fun. The view makes Birmingham look almost beautiful. And the breeze up there makes you forget about the hot, sticky summer.
Vulcan has celebrated over 100 birthdays. He sits atop Red Mountain in Birmingham. It is free to look around the park, but admission ($6 for adults) is charged to look at the museum and see the view from his pedestal.