12 surprising Birmingham facts that you need to know

Birmingham facts
Downtown Birmingham, Alabama, USA Drone Skyline Aerial.

Birmingham is truly one of the most interesting cities in the South and its history is filled with significant events and interesting trivia. Here are 12 surprising Birmingham facts that any fan of the Magic City should know.

12 surprising Birmingham facts

1. The statue of Vulcan, the mythical god of metalworking, was commissioned to proudly advertise Birmingham’s iron and steel industries for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

History of Vulcan

Located at Vulcan Park & Museum, Vulcan is the largest cast-iron statue in the world and is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty. Vulcan’s bare buttocks, which moon the suburbs of Homewood, are as wide as a Greyhound bus.

2. Birmingham is the only place in the whole world where all three ingredients for steel – coal, iron ore and limestone, can be found within a 10-mile radius. The availability of these key resources are what made Birmingham’s iron and steel industry flourish.

3. The corner of 20th Street and First Avenue is referred to as Heaviest Corner on Earth because the four gigantic skyscrapers there were once the largest in the South.

The nickname came from an early 20th-century magazine article about the four massive skyscrapers that were, at the time, the South’s biggest buildings.

4. Rickwood Field is the nation’s oldest baseball park. Rickwood Field was opened in 1910 and hosted baseball greats like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Rickwood Field
(Source: WBRC photo, modified)

5. An early heroine of the city was Louise Wooster, a madam who turned local brothels into clinics when a huge cholera epidemic hit the city in 1873. While thousands of people fled the city due to cholera, Louise Wooster decided to stay. With medical facilities overflowing with patients, Wooster’s clinics are thought to have saved many lives. The UAB School of Public Health awards the Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award annually to people, groups or organizations that are unconventional public health heroes.

6. Birmingham has its own replica of the Statue of Liberty that was originally commissioned for the Liberty National Life Insurance Company in 1956 and stood over the company’s downtown headquarters until 1989.

It is one of the largest Liberty replicas in the world, and real gas-fired flames shoot from the torch around the clock. The statue is 1/5th scale of the one in New York harbor and is now located on a tall pedestal in Liberty Park.

7. The Irondale Cafe was the inspiration for author Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes and the hit movie of the same name.

Jessica Tandy GIF by Filmin - Find & Share on GIPHY

8. Birmingham’s Civil Rights District is now a National Monument. Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s placed the city at the center of the national Civil Rights conversation. The Civil Rights District, an area of downtown Birmingham where several significant events in the Civil Rights Movement took place, was designated as National Monument by President Obama in 2017 to preserve and commemorate the work of the Civil Rights Movement.

9. Birmingham was the first city to celebrate Veterans Day, and it continues to host the largest Veterans Day celebration in the country. World War II veteran Raymond Weeks, a Birmingham native, led a delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1947 to urge the creation of a national holiday that honored all veterans. In 1954, President Eisenhower established November 11 as Veterans Day. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan honored Weeks as the driving force for the national holiday with the Presidential Citizenship Medal.

10. Birmingham’s The Club’s multi-colored dance floor was the inspiration for the flashy set up in the 1970’s John Travolta movie Saturday Night Fever.

John Travolta Dancing GIF by Hollywood Suite - Find & Share on GIPHY

11. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is officially recognized by Guinness World Records as having the largest collection of vintage and contemporary motorcycles in the world.

12. Sloss Furnaces is the only blast furnace site in the country that has been restored for the public and is the only facility of its kind being preserved anywhere in the world.

Sloss is now a city-operated museum and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.


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