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Birmingham’s Vulcan is sight to behold

One day in early 1991, I related my concern in this column about Vulcan. I had just read that the wonderful Vulcan statue located on Birmingham’s Red Mountain needed repairs to some cracks that ran across the front of the statue.

Maybe you don’t know that Vulcan is one of the ten top paid tourist attractions in the state. I love Vulcan and I have memories of vivid Sunday afternoon visits there in my growing up days. And, even more hours of courting time with the handsome soldier I later married.

I remember the echoes of our footsteps treading the long stairway to reach the porch that encircled the pedestal. I had no qualms about the climb, but I was a coward when it was time to step out on the porch. I noticed that friends who were with us didn’t quiver with fear when they walked out to the railing. I cringed against the wall, fighting the strange feelings that swept over me when I find myself in high places. I did have comfort, though. There were the strong arms of my beloved encircling me and holding me tightly.

Maybe you remember that Vulcan was the god of fire in Roman mythology and the patron of blacksmiths and metal workers. Birminghan’s Vulcan was built by an Italian sculpturer, Gjiseppe Moreitti, It became his most well-known work.

The article had read said that some 40 feet of cracks ran across the body of the statue, including three in the beam, supporting the arm that held the torch.

Estimates of the repair of those cracks ran around $250,000, but those were not the only problems. Concern back in 1990 I mentioned were taken care of by Birmingham citizens raising 40 million dollars to renovate Vulcan. When the city applied for federal fund of three million dollars, Sen. John McCain raised an objection, declaring not one more federal dollar should be spent on such foolishness as the statue. One million came through however.

Birmingham’s association with Vulcan dates to the 1880s, a time when Alabama was the nation’s fourth-highest producer of iron and steel, fueled by the area’s rich coal, limestone, and ore deposits, and Birmingham was expanding rapidly as a result Birmingham’s association with Vulcan dates to the 1880s, a time when Alabama was the nation’s fourth-highest producer of iron and steel, fueled by the area’s rich coal, limestone, and ore deposits.

Would you believe that the Vulcan statue towers five stories over the southern edge of town? Vulcan holds the distinction as being among the largest national statues behind the Statue of Liberty.

If you are a native-born Alabamian, you have surely seen Vulcan. If you have not, please do. It is a sight to behold.

Nina Keenam is a former newspaper reporter.