Sitting on top of Red Mountain, the Vulcan watches over Birmingham, Alabama, an ancient god protecting a modern city.
God of the Forge
In ancient Rome, Vulcan was the god of the forge. He was born to Jupiter and Juno but was thrown from Mount Olympus because he was not beautiful like the other gods and goddesses. He landed on the island of Lemnos where he worked as a blacksmith with a volcano for his forge and Cyclopes for his helpers, making weapons and armor for the gods who rejected him.
The Magic City at the World’s Fair
Birmingham was founded in 1871 on land that contains coal, iron ore, and limestone, all of which are used to make iron and steel. The Magic City was forged from these and industry grew quickly. Birmingham and the state of Alabama chose the Vulcan statue to represent the city at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and enlisted the sculpture Giuseppe Moretti to create him. He became the world’s largest cast-iron statue made of 100,000 pounds of iron and standing at 56 feet tall. The statue was popular and won the fair’s Grand Prize and also brought home medals for the sculpture and foundry.
After the fair, Vulcan made his home at the Alabama State Fairgrounds for 30 years before being moved to his permanent home atop Red Mountain. The observation deck was added for the city’s 100th birthday in 1971. By 1999, time and weather had taken their toll on the Vulcan. Money was raised for the statue to be repaired and restored, and by 2003 the Vulcan was restored to his original glory.
Vulcan Park and Museum
The Vulcan remains a popular attraction, just was it was during the World’s Fair. The public park in which the statue stands also houses an interactive history museum that explores the Vulcan and Birmingham’s histories. Admission to the museum also includes admission to the observation deck that surrounds the Vulcan’s feet. This is where you’ll get the best views of downtown Birmingham.
Have you visited the Vulcan? Let me know in the comments!