Have you met the Iron Man?

Trip Start Sep 04, 2010
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Alabama
Friday, September 24, 2010

Seattle has the Space Needle. New York has the Statue of Liberty. San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. St Louis has the Arch. And Birmingham has the Iron Man, God of the Forge, the Vulcan; known locally and affectionately as the man with no pants, whose bare backside has been the butt of jokes since his erection in 1939. Okay, okay, I'll stop, enough of the puns.

Truth is, everyone loves the Vulcan, and paying a visit to the big statue on top of Red Mountain is one of my first memories as a child. I took my own children there when they were growing up, and today, it's time to show my grandson around.

Here are the basic facts: Vulcan is the largest cast-iron statue in the world, and the second tallest statue in America He is 56-feet tall and weights 60 tons. He was made, originally, to symbolize the spirit of the "Magic City" at the St Louis Exposition of 1904, because Birmingham at the time was a major industrial center, and a leading producer of raw iron.

The story of his "life" is a fascinating one, from the idea in the businessmen's head, to the design and creation by Italian sculptor Giuseppi Moretti, to his appearance at the St Louis fair, to his abandonment for a number of years, before his final resplendent resting place atop a pedestal on Red Mountain.

The surrounding park and grounds are pleasant and inviting, offering good views of the city, and today there is a museum that explains both Vulcan's story, and the story of Birmingham, the only place in the world where the three raw ingredients for making iron and steel -- coal, iron ore, and limestone -- can be found in close proximity to one another. Once the railroad came in, the results were "magic" indeed, The city was named after Birmingham, England, a thriving industrial center. By the late 1880's, iron ores poured forth from the Red Mountain mines, coal was mined from the Warrior and Cahaba fields, and Sloss and many other furnaces made these minerals into pig iron. Foundries poured the iron to make pipe and stoves.

School children regularly make field trips to Vulcan, to learn the history of their community, to learn the history of the steel industry, it's a thing of pride. Families wander through on weekends, browsing the "old company store" or posing for pictures beside the indoor replica of Vulcan's foot. He's BIG!

I could go on and on, but let's just look around.

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