Watching over the Magic City, a huge statue of a bearded, bare-bottomed man stands tall as a reminder of Birmingham's origins. The story of the statue of Vulcan is as inspired as the city he calls home. This is the History of Vulcan Park and Museum.
History of Vulcan Park and Museum
The history of Vulcan Park and Museum starts in 1903 at the turn of the century. Born in Birmingham furnaces, the statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, was made to represent Birmingham at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair as the iron and steel making capitol of the south. Vulcan made quite the splash at the World’s Fair winning grand prize at the palace of minds and metallurgy.
After the World’s Fair the 50 foot statue of Vulcan made it’s way home to Birmingham, but where he would be located sparked a bit of debate. Eventually he found a “temporary” home at the State Fair Grounds that ended up being his home for 30 years.
In 1935 the Birmingham Kiwanis Club devised a plan to move the statue to a more dignified location on Red Mountain. It was decided that Vulcan would be places upon a one hundred twenty three foot tower rising above a mountaintop park created specifically for area visitors on Red Mountain. The new park was funded by a grant from the Works Progress Administration, a government project that put people back to work during the great depression. Work started on the park in February of 1936 and by October 1938 Vulcan was in his new home and for the first time was presented as a great civic monument.
In the late 1960’s, with attendance to the park dwindling the city decided to update some of the aesthetics of the park in time for Birmingham’s Centennial in 1971. The park was totally renovated, adding a marble facade and new enclosed observation deck were added to the existing tower that Vulcan stood on. These new additions were more in line for the style of time but they De-emphasized the statue.
Time takes it’s toll
These changes would last nearly thirty years until the early 1990’s when an investigation led to the discovery that Vulcan’s structural integrity was at risk. Vulcan was in desperate need of repair. In 1999 the surrounding 10-acre park was closed and Vulcan was removed from his pedestal. The Vulcan Park Foundation was formed and sought public support for the restoration of the city’s most important monument.
Back on Top!
The foundation oversaw a master plan to return this colossal statue to his 1904 grandeur. They also created a dynamic educational park complex interpreting Alabama’s rich industrial history for both residents and visitors from across the globe.
Today, thanks to public-private partnerships and a $15.5 million campaign, this beloved symbol of Birmingham and the nation’s iron and steel industry stands preserved and proud as the centerpiece of it rehabilitated and expanded park, now referred to as Vulcan Park and Museum.
This content sponsored by Adamson Ford.
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